Unless you have been a recluse since you were old enough to talk, everyone of us have been insulted or have perpetrated an insult. Some people seem to nonchalantly brush it off, while others immediately take offense and either flare up in anger or painfully withdraw from everyone into their own private little world. It is in the fallen nature of mankind to flaunt the faults of others or point out differences in others which are in reality irrelevant, except in the twisted perception of the ones who are doing the comparisons and pointing the accusing fingers. When Jesus came along to show us how much God loves us, one would expect Him to be the epitome of compassion and loving grace to all He came in contact with.
But as Pastor Ellery directed us to the fifteenth chapter of Matthew starting in verse 21, we see an occasion where God Himself in the flesh actually used an insulting racial slur when addressing someone who came to Him for help.This is the account of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus for help for her daughter who was vexed by a demon. After our initial gasp of incredulous dismay, the pastor went on to show how this was actually used to minister to the woman and bring restoration to the daughter.
But she came, knelt before Him, and said, “Lord, help me!”
He answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs.” - Matthew 15:25-26
In the previous portion of the chapter, we see Jesus debating with the Jewish religious leaders about washing and what defiles a man. He then travels to the area of Tyre and Sidon, a prominently Gentile region where He and the disciples are confronted by a desperate Canaanite woman begging for help on behalf of her daughter. Isn’t it interesting that the people who knew Jesus the longest only saw Him as Joseph’s son, or “that” teacher that stirs up trouble and hangs around sinners; yet this woman who was not educated in the scriptures and not even part of the covenant addressed Jesus as Lord, Son of David. Despite being ignored and shunned - probably, she must have thought, due to her ethnicity - her persistence gets initially rewarded with being called a dog. This is not intended to draw forth cute images of cuddly puppies or playful doggies eager to please their master’s every whim with a wagging tail and cheerful disposition. In the eyes of the Jewish people, dogs were unclean, savage scavengers; roaming around in packs bringing fear and disease where ever they go. This was an insulting ethnic slur, and it was Jesus who said it. Now, I do not believe He was trying to be mean, I believe He called her this to bring her perception of herself to the forefront so He could deal with the stigma she had to endure from the Jewish people around her. The amazing thing is, not only did she seem not to get offended and turn away, she actually owns up to it and still declared Jesus as Lord, her master; and that she - as a dog - can partake of the crumbs of blessing that fall from the table of provision holding the master’s bounty. Even in the face of an insult, she was determined to get help from the only one who could provide it. In the following phrase that Jesus proclaims over this woman, He dispels her perception of worthlessness by saying her faith was great while granting her petition. He demonstrated to her God’s love for all, regardless of what others thought of her and what she thought about herself.
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!”
Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was cured. - Matthew 15:27-28
We still have the same deep-seated issues today. Not because of race, social classifications, sexual orientation, or anything else we could fill in the blank with, but because of sin. Because everyone of us has fallen short of the glory of God, we all feel unworthy or the need to do more or the need to be loved by the right person, and the list goes on. We have the dubious tendency to point out differences and shortcomings of others in desperate attempts to make us feel better, important, and worthy of acceptance. Just like a pack of prowling wild dogs, we bite, scratch and fight to get what we want, even if it is in our own pack as each one of us tries to display his own perceived dominance, fighting for the alpha position. The problem with this is that it is all a facade. Nothing we can do or be or try will remedy the dire consequences of our sin, which is wrath and judgment. The issue is compounded because we tend to believe the relentless derogatory comments and beliefs towards us from our own selves or others. This can make it hard to see that there is Someone who unconditionally loves us and has provided the solution to our dilemma. Like He did with the Canaanite woman, Jesus brings to light the perceptions we have of ourselves and others; not to berate us or condemn us, but to let us know that He loves us even in our sinful condition. The Spirit directs us to scriptures such as John 3:16 and Romans 5:8. He says to us - “I know what you think of yourself, what you think of others, and I know the sin in your heart. That does not change the truth that the Father loves you, gave Christ to die for you and raised Him from the dead to pay the debt you owed. You need to simply believe that Christ did all of it for you, and you can be free from sin and the condemnation and judgment that accompanies it.” God loves us and paid the high price of sin for us, so we would not have to fight and claw our way through life like unworthy dogs that sin told us we were. Because of the cross and the empty tomb of our Lord, we are now the cleansed, forgiven and righteous sons and daughters of the King of kings He made us to be.
John Clark is a husband to Julie, a father of one son living in Valrico, Florida. He has an Associate Degree of Theology from Life Christian University, and serves at Life Center of Brandon where he is a teacher and writer.