Inference Interference


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 57; 145, 2 Kings 5:1-19, 1 Corinthians 4:8-21, Matthew 5:21-26

Naaman was an Aramean warrior who suffered from leprosy. One of his wife’s servants was an Israeli captive. This girl told Naaman that a prophet in her land could cure his illness. With a letter and the good wishes from his own king, Naaman took “ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments” to the king of Israel. Did this generous tribute and simple request touch the heart of the king? Not quite.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

And that sometimes seems to be the entirety of foreign relations in a nutshell. Personal relations, too.

Inference is a dangerous habit, but we do it all the time. Asking someone directly for clarification of their meaning or intentions should be simple, but we are uncomfortable asking and defensive when asked. Often we would rather just work off assumptions … which we’re not especially good at making. From being offended at unintended “tone” we’ve erroneously read into emails, to completely misreading the motives of foreign governments, inferences cause no end of unnecessary problems.

The prophet Elisha advised the king of Israel to take a breath; he would cure the Aramean commander’s leprosy. Then is was Naaman’s turn to be paranoid. When Elisha instructed him to bathe in the Jordan River, Naaman protested that the cure could not be so simple and prepared to leave. His servants asked him why he would have been willing to do something difficult, and rejected something easy.

If we would like transparency and trust from others, we must be willing to offer them first. Christ tells us before we offer a gift at the altar, we should reconcile ourselves to any brother or sister who has something against us. That’s not the same as forgiving something we have against them – the onus is on each of us to initiate peace whether or not we believe we are in the wrong. If we don’t know how, we can start by asking.

Comfort: Making yourself vulnerable is not a weakness.

Challenge: When in doubt, ask.

Prayer: Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. (Psalm 85:8)

Discussion: Have you ever made an assumption which led to unnecessary conflict?

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