Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Faith of "Dogs"

A Canaanite woman cried out “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is demon possessed!” Jesus did not respond to her at all. His disciples finally begged him to get the woman to shut up, because she kept on yelling after them. So, Jesus rebuked the woman by saying “I have been sent to feed the children of God.” She interrupted by repeating her plea “Lord, Help me!” But Jesus replied, “It’s not right for me to take the food meant for the children and give it to the dogs.” She answered “Even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table.” Jesus responded to her faith, “Woman, your faith is great! You have what you request.” Her daughter was healed from that time. Matthew 15:22 -28

Why was Jesus rude to this woman?

She called Him the right thing. He is “Lord, Son of David.” She recognized Him as King of the Jews, the Messiah. When Peter said it, Jesus blessed him. When a blind, beggar yelled it, Jesus marveled at his faith. She called Him the right thing but he “did not answer a word.” He ignored her.

She also had the right attitude. Her prayer was “Have mercy on me.” When Jesus taught about the attitude of prayer he contrasted a proud Pharisee who publicly boasted in his prayer with a humble tax-collector who said “have mercy on me.” This woman’s prayer came from the right attitude of humility. But he ignored her.

She also had the right persistence. Jesus taught that “even an un-just person will answer your request if you pester him long enough, how much more so will God give good things to those that ask Him?” She was persistent to the point that she was annoying the disciples because she “keeps crying out after us.”

If praying well is a formula, she seems to nail it. She rightly knows who she’s praying to (check that box). She has the right attitude of humility and dependence (check that box). She has the right method of being persistent (check that box).

So why in heaven’s name did He react rudely by completely ignoring her? And then, when He did speak, He said probably the most demeaning thing He ever said to anyone. “Why should I take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” He called her a dog! He was saying, “there are other people here who are so much more important than you, that it would be wrong to spend any time on you. The “children” deserve and warrant my time and attention, not a “dog.”

If God said that to you or me, while we were praying to Him about something desperately important, how would we respond? I would be hurt and angry. I could easily see myself accusing God of hypocrisy. “Excuse me? Exactly how do you call yourself the ‘God of Love,’ and then go around calling those that pray to you, dogs?”

But, I stand in humble amazement at the woman’s answer. “Even the dogs can get the crumbs that fall from the table.” Ponder the humility of that response. She did not argue the validity of her comparison between her and the dogs. She did not argue the rudeness of His response. She remained humble. She remained humble. She remained humble. Her steadfastness in humility, submission, and persistence frankly puts me to shame.

Clearly she was so convinced of her own dependency and His power that she would not let anything, including His behavior change her mind. Her faith was not dependent on anything, including His words and actions.

I don’t know why God would choose to model rudeness in this story. (He compared Himself to an unjust judge to teach about persistence.) But maybe He chose His response so that we could see the humble persistence that would be amazing even to Him. Woman, your faith is great! You have what you request.”

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