On June 28th, 2016, a certain politician asked an enthusiastic crowd in Ohio if they liked the illegal and inhuman torture of waterboarding to which he responded, “I like it a lot.” This same politician later said in regards to terrorism, “You have to fight fire with fire.” Last week, over 1,000 Christian leaders met with this politician in New York in order to hear their political concerns addressed by the nominee of a major political party. At this meeting, the politician claimed the existence of a “war against Christians” and told the gathered group, “all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes.” Christianity is being sold down the tubes, and this wealthy militaristic politician is promising to buy it back.
This week’s lectionary passage in the Old Testament (1 Kings 5:1–14) speaks poignantly into our current geopolitical context. Naaman, a successful military commander in Aram/Syria, has all the obtainable honor one could want except for a skin disease that plagues him. The story tells us that he has previously led a raid into Israel and held captive an unnamed girl, who now serves his wife. She points out to him that Israel’s prophet could heal him of his leprosy. In order to curry favor with Israel’s prophet and God, Naaman embarks to Israel with 675 lbs of silver and 135 lbs of gold. Israel’s king, however, is not having it. He responds to Naaman’s request by insisting he is not God and does not have the power needed to cure Naaman’s ailment. Naaman then takes his military might and wealth to Elisha the prophet in Israel. Yet, Elisha does not come out to greet Naaman’s display of great power and influence. Naaman expects his wealth, power, and honor to be met with equal power and honor from Israel’s prophet. Instead, Elisha sends a messenger with a simple command for Naaman to wash in the Jordan River. Naaman is outraged that he would travel all this way and not be greeted by the prophet. Now a messenger wants him to wash in the humble Jordan?
God’s Kingdom does not operate on the terms of the power structures within society. When Naaman approaches Israel with his spoils of domination, his gifts are not welcome because God’s Kingdom cannot be bought and sold. God’s Kingdom is like the lowly river, inconspicuous and ever flowing. In the end, Naaman’s healing could not come from his achievements, military prowess, or money, but only from the simple waters of the Creator. God’s Kingdom is advanced by the captives, the messengers, servants, children, and the poor. As participants in our current political landscape, may we be mindful that our hope in Christ is never found in the promises of those in positions of presumed power. May our participation in God’s Kingdom be rooted in Christ’s self-offering love of all people. And may we remember that God calls us to the simple waters to be healed, washed, and refreshed, which is the antithesis of waterboarding.