While we have discussed this topic in other postings, specifically those in reference to “Love is Patient”, I would like to highlight some ways in which we are easily provoked and in which our love is often tested.
Naaman was the captain of the army of Aram. Naaman was a mighty and valiant warrior but he was also a leper. Naaman’s wife had a Hebrew slave, a little girl taken captive in battle with Israel. This girl told Naaman’s wife of the prophet Elisha. “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:3) Naaman’s wife told Naaman, who in turn told the king of Aram. It pleased the king of Aram to send his servant to the prophet Elisha that he might heal him. The king of Aram wrote a letter to the King of Israel saying, “And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:6) This greeting frightened the King of Israel, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?” (2 Kings 5:7) Yet, upon hearing of the request, Elisha agreed to receive Naaman that he might be healed. Finally Naaman arrived with his men, his horses, his chariots, and his gifts for the prophet, but Elisha refused to come out of his house. Instead, “Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.’” (2 Kings 5:10) Naaman was incensed, “‘Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.” (2 Kings 5:12) As he turned to go, his servant reasoned with him, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13) In the end, Naaman obeyed the prophet and was cleansed of his leprosy. It says that his skin was renewed “like the flesh of a little child.” (2 Kings 5:14)
Why did Naaman explode with anger at the prophet’s command? It was because of his preconceived expectations. “But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’” (2 Kings 5:11) Naaman had an expectation of how the prophet would heal him. He was expecting a grand display of authority and power, yet all he got a simple command “go and wash.” The prophet himself did not even show up but sent his servant. Naaman was a great man and he was expecting a great healing. When his expectations were not fulfilled he was furious and was ready to leave in a rage.
Our unmeet expectations are often a source of anger for us. When we hold tightly to our expectations of how things should be done, how others should act, and how we should be treated, we set ourselves up for failure. Our expectations can be a kind of shackle by which we hold others captive, with the punishment for failing to meet our expectations being our anger. Love seeks to free others from our expectations. Love desires to see others fulfill God’s desires for them rather than them being conformed to our expectations. When we free others of our expectations we not only free them to fulfill God’s will for their life but we also free ourselves to enjoy God. We are no longer dependent upon our expectations being met to be happy but we are free to experience the joy of the Lord, even if things do not work out they way we had planned.
More to come… David Robison