Have you ever been given a warning to avoid a dog when he’s eating? The sweetest dog might become aggressive when it comes to food or favorite items. “Dogs find a variety of things valuable, from food to your favorite sweater. But, some might growl, stiffen, lunge, or even bite when you go near or try to retrieve something from them. Called resource-guarding in dogs, this behavior is a valuable instinct for feral dogs, because it allows them to survive on limited means in the wild. But it’s not such a great trait for domesticated animals” (Jen Karetnick, “What to Do When Your Dog Steals and Guards Items,” American Kennel Club, September 6, 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/resource-guarding-in-dogs/). Certainly, the family dog has enough food, and the humans of the house are not interested in eating puppy chow for dinner, but the dog doesn’t understand. The instincts for self-preservation are in full effect. The same can be true for humans. We get greedy and stingy because we worry that there just isn’t enough to go around. The reality is that enough food is produced to feed the entire world, but still, food scarcity impacts hundreds of millions of people globally. It’s a distribution problem more than a sufficiency problem. Does the church resource-guard God’s grace? Do we believe that it is truly for everyone? Or are we fearful that if we let in the outsider—the one who doesn’t know the religious rules or wasn’t raised in the church –they will ruin our image? God’s grace is infinite, and let’s face it: we do plenty to ruin our image on our own. Perhaps allowing the humble seeker to find kindness and generosity (like Elisha showed) rather than looking for a fight (like the king of Israel), may allow God to reach the outsider in ways we wouldn’t expect, just as he did for Naaman.
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