Making the Case
“For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” – Mark 7:29 (NRSV)
The Syrophoenician woman was bold to make her ask of him. He’d drawn himself away from the crowds, not wanting anyone to know he was there.
But this woman was intrepid. And she found Jesus and she made her case with him. Her daughter had an affliction described as “an unclean spirit” and she was not going to stop until her child was safe and well.
The conversation was not easy. Jesus’ mind was elsewhere, his priorities different. By showing up, she made herself a priority.
Every day people facing desperation make their way across our borders while we, as a nation, focus on other things. Almost universally, their decisions to come have to do with the need to make their children well, safe—either here with them, or sending home the fruits of income they cannot earn there. What a person can bear herself becomes quite different when a child is at stake.
The Syrophoenician woman—an outsider to Jesus’ people—would be considered out of line. She would have broken several codes to enter a place uninvited to make her case before the Lord.
This is what it means to face a life-or-death decision for a child. And people make them every single day as they risk their lives to show up at our borders.
If only we were as merciful as Jesus.
Instead? We treat them as if they are less than human and house them in cages unfit for animals. (And spare me the emails: I have seen them myself). We assume that they are criminals—as if this removes their human rights. We focus on the laws they break rather than the compassion they need.
How dare we not act more like Jesus?
The Syrophoenician woman needed her chance to tell her story, to argue her case. Jesus removed the barriers for her to do so.
Are you ready to help remove ours?
God of compassion, renewal, God who at the end of the day will still listen: can we do the same? Can we please follow Jesus? Can you help our family, friends and neighbors to do the same? May we please be the Sanctuary you already are? In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.