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Climb a Mountain, Swim a Sea, Fight a Dragon

Fight a Dragon

It fascinates me how the most beautiful thing can also be the most offensive thing. The world knows nothing more beautiful than grace, than favor that is undeserved, unmerited, and freely granted. Yet so often the world responds to grace with spite and anger, with revulsion and unbelief.

There’s a great example of this in the book of 2 Kings. There we learn about the mighty and noble Naaman, commander of the army of Syria. This man is mighty and noble, he is respected and favored, he is a hero of his generation. But he is also a leper. Naaman learns that in Israel there is a prophet and he appeals to that prophet—to Elisha—for a cure. Elisha sends his servant to pass along a message: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). Yet, surprisingly, Naaman responds to these words with fury. Why would he be so furious? Why would he reject this gracious offer of a cure?

On one level, I’m sure he was angry that he had been spoken to by a mere servant instead of a great prophet, something he would have received as a grave insult. But then I’m certain he was also angry that the solution was so unexpected, so simple, so gracious.

Over the years, I have seen many people show interest in the Christian faith. They listen respectfully when they are told about humanity’s problem with sin—they nod their heads and admit, “Yeah, I have done some bad things.” And they may continue to listen with interest as they are told about Jesus dying for the sins of sinful humanity. “What a great man,” they may say. And perhaps they’ve even asked, “What would I need to do to become a Christian?”

They’ve been told the wonderful truth: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Yet they’ve responded like Naaman. They scoffed or rolled their eyes or just walked away altogether. Why?

Because grace is so offensive. Because they expected they would be told to earn their salvation—and they wanted to earn their salvation. They didn’t want to receive it by grace but to earn it by works. They wanted their salvation to be deserved instead of undeserved. They wanted it to be merited instead of unmerited. And so instead of accepting Christ they rejected him and instead of receiving his salvation, they spurned it.

He would rather die than receive grace.

I think that if Elisha had told Naaman to do something hard and heroic, he would have gladly done it. If he had been told to climb a mountain or swim a sea or fight a dragon, he would have embarked on so noble a quest. He would have labored to prove himself worthy and able. But he was told to do something simple. He was told to receive without earning. He was told to accept without meriting. And it turns out he would rather die than receive grace.

In his own way, Naaman did what so many of us did when we first heard of grace—we rejected it. But God did for Naaman what he did to so many of us—he pursued us and drew us back. He saved us and drew him in. He rescued us and drew him to himself. He did it all because he is a God of love, a God of mercy, and a God of grace.

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