She had watched her husband bite his fingernails for years and even though it did her no harm, it made her crazy. She tried all sorts of remedies to get him to stop – wearing gloves, getting a manicure, foul tasting fingernail polish, yelling and screaming – but nothing worked. Given to such trials, she would often complain to her friends, but one day she happily reported: “I’ve cured my husband of biting his nails.”
The friend asked, “How did you manage to do that?”
She answered, “Every morning I hide his teeth.”
Not a very kind solution, but definitely simple.
It was Albert Einstein who said, “When the solution is simple, God is answering.” At that point, the only thing remaining for us to do is follow through. Consider our first reading today.
Naaman was a great soldier and commander of the Aramean army, but Naaman suffered from leprosy. Learning that there was someone in Israel that could cure him, his King, Aram sent him to the king of Israel. On discovering why Naaman was there, the king of Israel tore his clothes out of fear, because he thought that if he was unable to heal Naaman, then the Aramean army would attack. Yet the prophet Elisha heard and told the king not to worry and to send Naaman to him. When he arrived, through a messenger, Elisha told Naaman to go and bathe in the Jordan River seven times and you will be healed.
Hearing this, Naaman became angry. “I travelled all this way just to be told by a messenger to go bathe in the Jordan River. I thought surely the prophet himself would come out and wave his magic wand over my sores and I would be healed. And besides, if I have to bathe in a river, then shouldn’t it be one of those of Damascus, because they are far greater.” But it would seem that Naaman’s servant was far wiser than him. The servant said, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean’?” Naaman did and he was healed. The solution to Naaman’s leprosy was simple, all he had to do was follow through.
We are all born with a problem that we cannot overcome: sin that leads to death. But what is impossible for man, is possible for God. Some of Jesus’ last words recorded in Mark’s Gospel: “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Remember Einstein’s words, “When the solution is simple, God is answering.” God’s answer to overcoming sin and death: believe and be baptized.
There are times when I can appreciate Naaman’s line of thought and would like for our Christian faith to have certain requirements, maybe a bit like the Boy Scouts. Perform certain skills and get a merit badge, then progress through Scout, Tenderfoot, Second-class, First-class, Star, Life, and when you make Eagle Scout your in. Then you would know. Then you could earn it. But the answer is simple, like Elisha said to Naaman, all you need to do is “Wash, and be clean.” Be washed in the waters of baptism and be washed in the blood of Christ. The solution to sin and death is simple, all we have to do is follow through.