A Syrophoenician woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Jesus, and she came and bowed down at his feet. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” – Mark 7:25-27 (NRSV, adapted)
Jesus used a racial slur against a person of mixed race and ethnicity. He called a Syrophoenician woman, and her unwell child, dogs.
Insults based on dogs are curious. Not only are dogs among the most loving, gracious, trusting, loyal creatures on earth, but also dogs are dogged. Our dog, Boots, loves to lick dirty dishes as we load the dishwasher. No matter how many times I chase him away, he’s not getting the message. He does not give up. He persists and persists and persists, to get as many crumbs from our plates and forks as possible.
The Syrophoenician woman doggedly persisted. She was not the first or the last. Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony Rosa Parks, Senator Jeannette Rankin, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Michelle Obama, Stacy Abrams, Sandra Day O’Conner, RBG, Elizabeth Warren, Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, and many more I could name, as well as countless anonymous or unnamed women like the Syrophoenician woman have doggedly persisted – would not go away, would not give way, would not be dismissed.
“Sir,” the Syrophoenician protested, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” I think she also whispered, “Checkmate,” but that was not recorded.
Jesus’ response was almost an expletive: “Great is your faith!” The daughter was healed and maybe Jesus was too. Maybe Jesus was converted to a larger vision of his own message about the commonwealth of God and who belongs.
If you need healing, hope or justice for yourself, for a loved one, for your community, for our country, ask for it! Demand it! Don’t back down! Remind God who God is and what God promised to be and do.
Be dogged. Persist.
Faithful God, you promised a new heavens and a new earth. You promised! I won’t stop demanding it until you deliver.