This past Sunday the lesson I taught the 3rd Grade boys was in 2 Kings, chapter 5, the account of how God heals Naaman of his leprosy. After Naaman is healed, he goes back to Elisha and professes his faith in Jehovah, but he says something interesting. He explains to Elisha how King Aram worships a false god and that Naaman’s job obliges him to go into the temple with the king and bow before the idol. Naaman requests that God forgive him in advance as when this situation occurs, Naaman will bow, but the bow will be completely meaningless and merely a formality. The prophet Elisha tells Naaman that this is okay as he says, “Go in peace.” I found this highly intriguing. Here, we have a picture of how God expresses His love to us as it is displayed in His patient understanding. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t try to be like Him, it’s that we SHOULD strive to be like Him.. and above all HE IS LOVE!
So many people think of God as this cosmic being who demands perfection on the part of His subjects and when (not IF, but WHEN) they fail, He sends swift punishment to teach and remind them who’s the boss. This isn’t that character of God in the least. God disciplines, but discipline isn’t punishment. There is no punishment (or condemnation) for those who are in Christ. Discipline is not punitive. Capital punishment is punitive. God does not operate that way. He truly loves us. He truly loves me. He truly loves you! And as the One Who loves you, He bears long with your failures and lovingly prompts you toward change that conforms you more into a reflection of Him.
It isn’t always the priority to be right on every issue. Jesus said the one thing required of us is to love The LORD with all our being and to love our neighbor. He didn’t tell us to make sure we check off a daily checklist of how to be a 5 Star Christian, that we use the “right bible”, or are a member of a specific denomination. He just tells us to love.
But what if we’re wrong? Think of a child, who loves his mother and longs to present her with something special for mother’s day. The child has no money, so he decides to be resourceful and sneaks out into the rose garden and breaks off an assortment of the most beautiful roses he can find from his mother’s garden and with dirty hands, presents the love gift to his mother. She can see the broken stems of her previously wonderful rose bushes and knows the damage done to them will take a considerable amount of effort and time to undo, but had no harsh words for the boy. She accepts the gift with as much gratitude had he bought an entire flower store for her. Why? Because the gift was offered in love. The child shouldn’t have done what he did, but he did it out of a sincere heart of love for the one he should love. He wasn’t giving roses to someone else’s mom, or a loose girl. He was expressing his love to his own mother – and that was precious.
This is how God sees our striving to follow Him, when done in love. When done in arrogance or compulsion out of fear, the sacrifice of our life stinks to Him. God is love and He loves the things we do for Him in love… even if they aren’t exactly right.