How many of you just really love telemarketers?
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Nobody likes telemarketers. I mean, for all the strange or unusual holidays we’ve celebrated, we’ve never celebrated National Telemarketers Day. I don’t think there is one. If there is, it must be something organized by the telemarketing companies. I mean, nobody wants to get a call from a telemarketer.
And yet, we do. Even with the do not call list, we do. Wanda and I could’ve been on so many cruises if we’d just said yes when the telemarketers called. As long as we answered a bunch of survey questions. And agree to pay some fees and other chargers.
Now, I’m not telling you that it’s okay to be rude to telemarketers. After all, they’re God’s children, too, just like you and I are. And for the most part, they’re just ordinary people trying to make a living. In fact, a lot of them are working at that job because they’ve not been able to find a better job. I mean, would you want a job where you cold-call people and they yell at you, chew you out, and hang up on you? No one would want that. And as soon as the people doing that can find a better job, they take it.
So, when you get a call from a telemarketer, remember that there’s a human being on the other end of the line and treat them like one. If, in fact, there is a human being on the other end of the line. A lot of times, we get automated calls. We don’t speak to a human at all. You can go ahead and be rude to a computer because a computer does not have feelings. At least, not yet.
But I bring this up because, while not every telemarketing call is a scam, there are a lot of scams out there. And what they have in common is they play on our greed. Part of the American Dream is, as P. G. Wodehouse once said, to be able to turn a minimum amount of effort into a maximum amount of money. And a lot of these telemarketing schemes play on that. The people who fight these scams have a phrase to warn people. You’ve probably heard it a hundred times. The phrase is “If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.”
When we’re talking about human things, that’s almost always a true statement. But when we’re talking about Godly things, it’s not. God does all kinds of things that sound too good to be true, but that are true. And that brings us to our Bible reading for today.
There’s this guy named Naaman. He commands the army of the country of Aram, and it’s a really good army. Naaman is widely respected and praised. But Naaman has leprosy. Now, back then the term “leprosy” was used to cover a wide variety of skin diseases, so we don’t know that he had leprosy as we’d define the term today. But still, he had some kind of skin disease, and he finds out that there’s this prophet in Israel who might be able to cure him. So, Naaman asks the king for permission to go to Israel. The king says yes, and Naaman eventually is led to see the prophet Elisha.
Except he does not. He never gets to actually see Elisha. All Elisha does is send his servant out to tell Naaman to go wash seven times in the Jordan River.
And Naaman is outraged. He’s outraged that Elisha never came out to see him—after all, does Elisha not know who Naaman is? Does Elisha not understand that this is an Important Person who has come to see him? But most of all, he’s outraged at the advice Elisha gave him. He says, what? Go wash in the Jordan River? That’s all I have to do? That’s not going to work. I’ve already tried that. I’ve tried washing myself before. There’s got to be more to it than that. There has to be something major involved here. Either Elisha needs to come out here and do something big thing, or he’s got to send me somewhere and tell me to do some big thing, or something. Washing myself in the Jordan River cannot be all there is to it. That’s too simple. It’s too good to be true.
Naaman would not believe it. He was ready to pack up and go home. It was only after his servants argued with him that Naaman agreed to go wash in the Jordan. And sure enough, it worked. Naaman’s skin disease was gone. He did not have to do some big, great thing. All he had to do was this little thing. It sounded too good to be true. But it was, in fact, true.
And you know, as I thought about it this week, it seems to me that our Christian faith is based on a lot of things that sound too good to be true. Maybe that’s why we struggle with our faith sometimes. After all, our society has a lot cynicism and a lot of skepticism. And there are reasons why. We’ve all experienced broken promises. We’ve all known people who’ll say one thing and do another. We’ve all had times when people were just out to take advantage of us, or were out to get us somehow. And so we hear all these things that sound good, and we think, “That’s just too good to be true.” And so we have a hard time believing it.
What are a couple of the basic foundations of our faith? Well, one of them is that God loves us. That, in and of itself, is too good to be true. Why should God love us? God is perfect. God is holy. God is all-powerful. God does not need us for anything. Why should God love us? What do we do for God? What could we do for God, even if we wanted to? God could get a lot more accomplished if we were not around. In fact, when you look at the world, you wonder sometimes if God regrets creating human beings and now considers it a bad move. Why would the holy, righteous, perfect God love me? Why would He love you? It sounds too good to be true.
That’s also true about Jesus. Why would the divine son of God come to earth? Why would he die for us? Why would he want to save us from our sins? I mean, think of it. Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, comes out of heaven and is born as a human being. He lives his life on earth, fully human as well as fully divine. He teaches people. He feeds people. He heals people. And we kill him. I mean, not you and me personally, but I have no reason to think I’d have been any different from the people who were around at that time. And knowing that we’re going to kill him, Jesus willingly allows himself to be killed. He allows himself to be killed so that all of our sins can be forgiven, and so that we can have eternal life in heaven if we simply believe in him as our Savior.
Why would Jesus do that? What did Jesus get out of it? It sounds too good to be true.
And then there’s the Holy Spirit. When we open our hearts to God, the Holy Spirit comes and leads us and guides us and helps us. The Holy Spirit helps us follow God. The Holy Spirit helps us get through the hard times of life. The Holy Spirit let us know that we’re never alone, that we can always rely on God. Why? Why would the Holy Spirit help us like that? Why would the holy, righteous, perfect God bother to send the Holy Spirit to come into my heart. Why would the Holy Spirit want to help me when times get hard? Again, it just sounds too good to be true.
I think, sometimes, we feel a lot like Naaman. We come to God with all of our hurts, all of our sinfulness, all of the damage that’s been done to us in our lives, sometimes damage we’ve done to ourselves. And we ask God to heal us. And God says, “Okay. Just believe in Jesus as your Savior, and you’ll be healed.”
And we say, what? Believe in Jesus as my Savior? That’s all I have to do? That’s not going to work. I’ve already tried that. I’ve tried going to church before. There’s got to be more to it than that. There has to be something major here. God has to perform some miracle, or I have to do some major thing, or something. Just believing in Jesus Christ as my Savior cannot be all there is to it. It’s just too good to be true.
But it is true. We don’t have to do some big, great thing. All we have to do is this little thing. It sounds too good to be true. But it is true.
All we need to do is believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. All we need to do is have faith. And we don’t even have to do that perfectly. If we waver, if we fall away, all we need to do is ask God for forgiveness and another chance. And when we do, God will give it to us. Every time.
When humans make us an offer that sounds too good to be true, the chances are it is too good to be true. But when God makes us an offer that sounds too good to be true, it is true. God loves us. God offers us forgiveness and salvation through the death and life of Jesus Christ. God offers to help us through life through the Holy Spirit. All we need to do in exchange is believe in Jesus Christ. It sounds too good to be true. But it is true.