The pride of Namaan in 2 Kings 5 almost cost him his healing. Naaman came all the way from Aram to Israel to have his leprosy cured because he heard a witness speak of the power of God to heal him. He was directed to meet Elisha the prophet. Elisha did not meet the dignitary. He sent out his servant with prophetic instructions on what captain Naaman needed to do to receive his healing. “Dip yourself seven times in the River Jordan,” came the instruction. But Naaman rejected the solution.
2 Kings 5:11-12 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘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 heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the 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. (NKJV)
Pride. Naaman seems to want a dramatic healing and worthier rivers. To Naaman, the healing process of Elisha was below-par. He walked away angry. His concerned servants asked him to consider his actions. If the prophet had asked him to do something great that would require him to accomplish a great feat and earn his healing, would he not have done it? They challenge him; then why not do this little thing that has nothing to do with his works and effort? Why not accept a healing that is of grace? Naaman humbles himself and agrees. This was the start of his cleansing.
When the proud human heart hears about the grace of Christ for salvation, the response is often like Naaman’s. “I cannot accept a salvation that I did not earn.” I must matter. I must contribute. I must be important. But the truth is that it’s not about you. Timothy Keller asserts that if salvation is by grace, there is nothing God cannot ask of us; but if salvation is by works then we remain in control and have matters on our own terms. Yet that desire to be in control is the very pride that damned the human race into separation from God in the garden of Eden. Naaman’s skin was not only healed, his heart was transformed as well; he acknowledges the God of Israel as the one and only true God and vows allegiance to him even while serving in a pagan nation. When we submit to the cross of Jesus, he not only heals us from the effects of sin, he also transforms our hearts. He makes us regenerate. The simplicity of salvation will remain foolishness to the proud. But to those that humble themselves it will be like Naaman with brand new baby skin- born again.
You see, the endgame of pride in every interaction is to get recognised. Pride is an enigmatic ego-calculator whose manifesto is to have self noticed. It does this in two ways- boasting and self pity. Both vainglory and self contempt achieve the same result- they draw attention to self. The gospel frees you from all that in two ways.
Firstly, the gospel tells you that your sins make you the person who deserves the least recognition in the eyes of a holy God. Your sins alone are enough to cause the death of the Son of God. This first way, the gospel removes the right to feel superior to other people. It also removes the right to feel recognised. It shows we are nothing.
However, secondly, the gospel also tells you that all your sins have been forgiven and that Jesus Christ has given you His righteous record. Jesus Christ is the person that deserves the most recognition, respect, reverence, notice and admiration yet He gives it to you freely. If you understand this, you realise that the gospel not only removes the right to feel recognised, but it also removes the NEED. We don’t need to build a name for ourselves; Christ has already built the name for us. Pride rejects it. Humility accepts the name. We can therefore experience the worst rejection, disrespect, ill-treatment and abuse and stand firm without feeling insecure because of the humility that will bear fruit from the gospel.
Pride on the other hand will feel rejected, disrespected, ill-treated and abused even when none of those things have taken place. Pride gets onto a campaign of proving it’s worth and competence. Pride is defensive even when nobody is attacking. Humility understands that you have nothing to prove. And even if there is a just reason to prove oneself, humility often bypasses it because Christ has proven it already at Calvary.