Sometimes I get surprised by an old story in the Scriptures. The story of Naaman the leper is one such story. 27 verses in the 5th chapter of 2 Kings dramatically recount his story. As the verses begin to add up, we read of God’s step by step mercies of moving this leper to an encounter with Israel’s prophet and his incredible healing from the scourge of leprosy. God sovereignly moves people into each other’s lives, sparks key conversations, and strategically shapes circumstances that will culminate in the miracle. The clear unfolding of God’s plan throughout the story inspires as much as Naaman’s miracles where his “flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
I love this story of faith and whenever I recall it I always think “Naaman the leper.” Even though the story ends with “Naaman the healed” I still think “Naaman the leper” as if it is his name.
So I was surprised when God led me through the familiar story and showed me that other things were said about Naaman… “commander of the king of the army of Syria,” “was a great man,” and “by him the LORD had given victory to Syria,” and “He was a mighty man of valor.” (2 Kings 5:1).
The leper was a successful warrior leader even used by God in a military campaign to accomplish His will. He was respected and cared for by the slave girl in his household – the very one who would bring the message of hope about the prophet in Israel. When Naaman approached his own king for permission to travel to Israel to seek the help of the prophet, the king’s generous response indicates again that Naaman is a man worthy of consideration and respect. Everyone around him in the story speaks well and wants to help this man.
Even though I was well acquainted with how the story ends I still thought of him as “the leper.” And then I saw in verse 1: “He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.” In my spirit I saw that Naaman’s primary identity was not leprosy.
Hidden in Naaman’s story is an important principle: he never let his problem define him. His disease did not stop him from raising family or serving as commander. I tend to think that he thought of himself as Naaman the commander, not Naaman the leper.
In NAMS we’ve learned to hold dear those gospel verses where Jesus speaks of “my disciples.” We’ve come to understand that our primary identity is disciple, follower of Jesus. Being with Jesus in intimate fellowship and doing what Jesus did in making disciples defines our discipleship. Yet, our identity is simply: follower of Jesus, child of God. We are not our problems, our weaknesses, our failures or even our successes. Our ministry or the fruit of our ministry is not to defines us. All disciple-making ministry is to flow out of our identity as those who are loved and discipled by Jesus Himself.
 Luke 14:26, 27 and 33; John 8:31; John 13:34,35, John 15:8
— Revd. Martin Gornick
NAMS Prior General
Rector; Apostle Anglican Church, Lexington KY