Matthew 15: 21-28
“His disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” (v23)
I’m sure we’ve all experienced an occasion when we’ve felt left out or not part of the ‘in crowd’. The Canaanite woman in this Bible passage was definitely not part of the ‘in crowd’, but she was desperate to attract Jesus’s attention and ask for his help. As an outsider, a Gentile, she was pushed away. She was shouting to be heard, causing a nuisance and was getting the message, “YOU’RE NOT WANTED HERE!”
Is Jesus being rude and rejecting the woman by saying that he’s come only to speak to the Jews. Is Jesus rejecting her or is he using the situation to teach his disciples. Perhaps it’s to show the difference between the disciple’s faith and that of the woman.
“Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith!…” (v28)
What a change of heart the Jews must have had to make to include the Gentiles into their world. We read about the debates and councils in Acts which show us something of that process whereby change takes place so that two sets of people can become followers of the Way. Jesus’s Way.
Jesus was constantly talking, eating with and healing those who were considered outcasts by his society. They didn’t belong. I can’t help but see some lesson to be learnt here that speaks to all that’s happening in America and Spain at the moment. It is never right to discriminate and make outcast anyone. Whether it’s because of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. That’s not what Jesus teaches.
I’ve recently read ‘God’s Belongers’ (David Walker 2017 Oxford: BRF.org.uk). Here he notes that there are four ways people ‘belong’ to the church:
- Activities – attending those things that take place regularly and frequently.
- People – for some who aren’t able to attend church, their belonging is through the relationship of someone who perhaps visits, calls, or drops in a parish magazine.
- Events – baptism, weddings, funerals, festivals or social events.
- Place – the building provides a sense of belonging perhaps through generations of family participation or a symbolic identity of community.
He also talks about personality and religious orientation (the role belief plays in their life, [pp 134-135]). People are different! It’s for this reason that we have to think about how we preach, not just what we say, and how we accommodate all sorts of people in our services so they feel that they belong, and that we see them as belonging [pp146 & 147].
- What is it that being part of God’s family has to offer?
- What would people gain from being part of our community?
- What is it we offer that people will want to belong to?
- How can we show people who are ‘different’ a real welcome?
Jesus offers a welcome to everyone. How do we in this present age, welcome people to a place of belonging so that they no longer feel like a guest, but as member of the family?