No doubt all will recognize the statement from the lips of Naaman (2 Kings 5). You remember how that Naaman was a leper and when told of a prophet in Samaria who could heal him, received permission from the king of Syria to go to Israel to be healed. When he finally arrived at the prophet’s house, Elisha simply sent a messenger to him stating his need to wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed. Upon being told this by the messenger the Record states:
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage (2 Kin. 5:11-12).
Consider with me a few things regarding this situation. Did Elisha have any obligation to come out to Naaman? Of course not. Was Elisha under any obligation to tell Naaman to dip in the rivers of Damascus? We have the same answer. However Naaman did not like the way in which Elisha handled the situation. As a result, he got mad. Naaman was going to miss out on his great opportunity to have his leprosy removed because of his anger at how Elisha handled the situation.
For years we have seen this same type of thing taking place in the Lord’s church, even among those who are sound conservative brethren. Years ago, when I was a younger preacher, the Crossroads perversion was raging (which later turned into the Boston movement which became the International Church of Christ). As faithful brethren would expose Crossroads and Chuck Lucas, some would invariably ask if they had talked personally to them, or asked if they had gone there personally. Often these people would appeal to Matthew 18:15. Jesus says: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” They would misapply this passage and falsely teach that one had the obligation to go to a false teacher before you could expose him in a public manner. It would then be pointed out that this verse has nothing to do with false teachers and false doctrine. This has to do with personal sins—one Christian commits a personal sin against another Christian. (Some translations leave out the “against thee” giving support to the personal sin aspect and trying to make it applicable to any sin. Some have used such mistranslations to teach an obligation of one to go to someone else even if they teach public false doctrine.) When it was pointed out to these people, they would often respond that while it did not deal with false teachers and false doctrine, it sets forth a principle which should be followed. They then do the exact same thing which Naaman did: “Behold I thought.” If you do not follow their self-imposed obligation, they get upset with their brethren. So they, like Naaman, go away in a rage.
These individuals generally did not care for the truth of the matter. The Crossroaders went into congregations all over the brotherhood and caused untold divisions among brethren. Yet, if you tried to expose them and the doctrines which they taught and practiced, these brethren were mad because you had not first gone to Crossroads and privately discussed it with them. Their splitting of churches, false doctrines, false teachings did not matter as much as their self-imposed obligation for you to go personally to them before exposing them.
Often these brethren would not listen to the facts presented concerning Crossroads and Chuck Lucas. They wanted you to go to them privately because “behold I thought” Matthew 18 set forth a principle that all should follow. When you failed to follow that self-imposed principle, they were not upset with the false doctrine and practices, they were upset with those who would expose such without first going to them privately. Then because you dared to expose their doctrine, they accuse you of splitting the church. They had gone “away in a rage” and now they are mad that you did not follow their procedure (which of course one must remember that it came from a false view of Matthew 18).
Through the years other controversies have come and gone. However, it seems that we will always have this type of thinking among even those who are considered conservative within the Lord’s church. It is a wrong type of attitude—it was wrong by Naaman, and it is wrong by those who have it today. Thankfully Naaman’s servants reasoned with him and got him to do what Elisha had said to do. Prayerfully, those who demonstrate this type of attitude today can be reasoned with today and leave this ungodly attitude behind.