Naaman (II Kings 5) was an important fellow. Some books call him a field marshal, while others say he was the commander of the Syrian army. He’s described as great, honourable, victorious, mighty, and valorous. But he has a problem. And it’s a problem many of us have also experienced at one time or another. He has a skin problem. No, it wasn’t necessarily leprosy as we think of leprosy; in the First Testament that term is used to describe any problem with the skin. So maybe it was psoriasis, which does leave white patches all over the body when it’s severe. Maybe it was discoid lupus. Maybe it was severe eczema. Who knows? Whatever it was, it was a problem for Naaman. A big problem.
In one of the border raids which were a regular occurrence between Aram and Israel, a young girl was grabbed to become a slave, and eventually found her way into the household of Naaman’s wife. While there, this plucky young woman suggested that if Naaman could visit the prophet from Samaria, he would be cured. Obviously Naaman’s wife shared this information with her husband, because next thing we know, Naaman was asking the King’s permission to go to Israel.
Much has been written about the courage and temerity of the young slave girl who spoke up about a cure. Sermons have even been preached on how this young one spoke “grace to power,” raising her up as an example to the rest of us, glorifying her courage and encouraging us to live by her example.
We could emulate the young slave girl, literally willing to put her life on the line to tell Naaman’s wife about the prophet. But we shouldn’t. There are thousands of children and teens around the world who fit that part of the story far more accurately than us – sold, enslaved, detained, and abused. In Libya alone an estimated 1,200 children live in subhuman conditions in European Union-sponsored refugee detention centers. We cannot use this story to glorify the nameless girl with her knowledge, because doing so would glorify her captivity, and That. Is. Never. An. Option. Our faith demands that we speak out and actively work against the powers and principalities that placed her, and still place children today, in captivity. That’s real courage.
The Rev Janet Taylor
Braeside Presbyterian Church, ST Albert, AB