A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit came and bowed down at Jesus’ feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. 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.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.” - Mark 7:25-30, excerpted (NRSV)
I used to think the most important thing about this story was how quickly Jesus learned and turned. Like, a dude who receives feedback on his problematic behavior from a woman, shows no signs of fragility, admits the validity of the feedback, and changes his behavior? So fast? Truly this man was the son of God!
But honestly, the more important thing about this story is the Syrophoenician woman’s response to Jesus’ cruelty. Doesn’t flinch, doesn’t miss a beat, doesn’t give him the tongue-lashing he deserves (and that she deserves to be able to give him). Calm, clever, charming. Meanwhile the stress hormones surge through her veins and her daughter slowly dies.
How much practice did that take? How many calm, clever responses did she have at the ready from past interactions with the likes of him? How many rehearsals did it require to be able to “yes-and” him with that carefully controlled wry smile? Can you imagine leading the kind of life where you have to get good at charmingly disarming bigots in order to try to save your daughter’s life?
And most importantly: why are we still living in a world that requires this sort of virtuosity from anyone?
Help me make a world where nobody needs to charmingly disarm a bigot ever again. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.