The Lessons of Lance

February 5, 2013

Excerpt from 2 Kings 5:1-14

"Naaman, commander of the army of the King of Aram was a mighty man of valor . . ."

Anthony B. Robinson

The story of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-14) is one of the Bible's best, and you definitely should read it. Really, you should.

But you sort of don't have to because it's unfolding right in front of us, with Lance Armstrong appearing in the role of Naaman.

Naaman was "a mighty man of valor." Which fits a guy who won the Tour de France seven times, wouldn't you say? But Naaman had a little problem, an embarrassing little problem. He was a leper, and it was eating away at him. And Lance had a little problem, an embarrassing little problem. He was a doper, which you've got to think was eating away at him too.

Naaman went to see the prophet Elisha. Lance went to see (here the analogy is imperfect) Oprah.

What Naaman bumped up against was that this wasn't something he could fix for himself or by himself. He couldn't use his strong hands or his strong army. He needed help. And Lance can't fix this one by himself or by "living strong." He needs forgiveness.

Which is what makes Lance Armstrong a sort of American parable. There are lots of things you can do for yourself by working hard, striving, struggling and competing. But being forgiven and set free aren't among them. Being forgiven, when we're screwed up or broken up, isn't something we achieve by our own strength or steely resolve. In fact, it isn't something that we get at all. It is something we are given. We can only receive it as a gift, as grace.

Naaman learned he couldn't save himself. Maybe Lance will learn that too? In the end we can't save ourselves, or even forgive ourselves. But here's the good news - we don't have to. We have a Savior. One who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Prayer

Holy God, the whole "live strong," be tough, compete and be in control is so darn appealing. It hooks us. It captures us. It binds us. By your grace, set us free. Amen.

About the Author
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of the just-published Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.

Order Spring Cleaning: 2013 Lent Devotionals - new from the Stillspeaking Writers' Group and other favorite UCC writers. Lent starts Feb. 13.

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