“Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:2-3). . . But [Naaman’s] servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13) (NRSV)
Naaman, the great and mighty Aramean army general had leprosy. It probably wasn’t what we think of as leprosy or Hansen’s disease, but some kind of annoying and embarrassing skin condition. It got in his way, and it was something that he wanted out of his life. So when an Israeli slave girl suggested to Naaman’s wife that he see the prophet Elisha, he decided to go.
When he finally went to the prophet, only a servant came out to tell Naaman to wash in the Jordan. This made the army general furious, but his servants encouraged him to give it a try, after all, it was a simple thing to do. Imagine Naaman’s joy when he came up out of the water for a seventh time and was healed. The rest of the story tells of Naaman’s conversion to believing in the God of Israel.
What’s interesting to me about this particular story, though, isn’t the powerful Aramean Army General or the two kings who were involved in the exchange in the middle of the story. It isn’t (at this point) the prophet’s seeming indifference to the General, but the servants who moved the story along.
The first servant was a slave in Naaman’s household. I suspect his wife was ready to have this disease gone, too, so she passed the information along to her husband. Then when things don’t seem to be going his way, and he throws a temper tantrum about the rivers of his own country being nicer and cleaner than the Jordan, as well as his anger at Elisha’s apparent snub, the servants who traveled with him convince him to give it a try.
In the Bible, the ignored, outcast, and marginalized of society are often referred to as “the little people.” This is not a put-down, but a reminder that it is how they are seen by the culture. Yet, even these “little people” had something to say that made a difference for someone who was a high ranking official in the government. Fortunately, Naaman paid attention to what they said.
Who are the “little people” whose voices we tend to overlook and whose wisdom is there for us to hear and welcome? I suspect that there are people in our churches who think they have nothing to offer, but they have great insight and wisdom to share. The problem is that we often are way too busy listening to the people who tend to have the loudest voices and who sometimes create the biggest “stink” so they will be heard.
I wonder what would happen if we listened to EVERYONE more carefully, especially to our “little people” whoever they may be. What would we learn? How would we experience God more fully?