The post below is excerpted from a longer sermon on 2 Kings 7.
I know our primary reading is about Elisha, but first I want to share these words from 1 Peter. I want you to not only hear them, but to know them and to hold them and to carry them with you back out into the world:
Even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated.
That’s really what fuels so much of the racist, bigoted comments and reactions. Fear. Fear of the other. Fear of forces beyond our control. Fear of death.
This is not a new phenomenon–basically good people acting in violent, hateful ways because of fear. The Bible is full of fearful people. (And angels running around scaring people half to death and then saying, “Do not be afraid.”)
Fear runs rampant in this story from 2 Kings as well, driving the actions of most of the characters—the king, the officer, the Israelites, the Arameans. But there are a few characters here who do not act out of fear.
The first, of course, is Elisha. He never seems to have any fear, even when he explains to the elders that the king has “sent someone to take off my head.” His fearlessness is rooted in his role as prophet, his heroic status, his deep connection to God.
Frankly, Elisha is beyond me, because I am not a heroic figure; I’m not a fiery prophet; I cannot claim to never experience fear. So I’m more interested in the other fear-defying characters—not Elisha who never has fear, but the four lepers who overcome their fear in order to live their lives.
I realize that the fearlessness of the lepers is not as theologically astute as Elisha’s fearlessness. They do not walk into the Aramean camp because of their faith in Divine protection or a sense of prophetic compulsion. Their motives are purely rational. There they are, starving to death outside the city walls and they assess their situation.
If we stay out here, we will die for sure.
If we force our way inside the city walls, we will die for sure.
If we go to the Aramean camp and surrender, we might die. Or we might not.
And so, because they truly have nothing to lose, they go to the Aramean camp . . . and find it deserted. I’m not sure about their motivation for telling the king about the deserted camp. Is it because they realize that it is morally wrong to keep this good news to themselves? Or because they fear they will get in trouble for withholding information if and when the king finds out?
Whatever the reason, the four lepers saved the lives of an entire city (except for the poor, trampled officer). They saved lives because they were able to overcome their fear—to step back from the overwhelming tragedy of their situation and consider whether or not there might be a better way, something they could do besides sit there and die.
Do not fear what they fear and do not be intimidated.
Sometimes your fearlessness will come from a deep and holy place; you will know that you are walking with God–who will provide for you and protect you no matter how great the threats. That is true, and sometimes you will know it.
Sometimes your fearlessness will come from desperation. You will be able to do the thing that is brave and good and right because it’s all you can figure to do; it’s the only option you see that does not lead to death.
Whatever fearlessness comes to you, grab ahold of it. Follow the fearlessness instead of the fear.
Your Muslim friends and neighbors are not plotting terrorist attacks. The long-suffering Syrian refugees are not coming to the US to blow up our buildings. Migrants from Mexico will not take all “our” jobs. Gay and lesbian Christians and the people who love them and the pastors who marry them will not bring about the downfall of the church.
And even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.
Do not fear what they fear. Do not be intimidated.