How do we treat people of a different ethnic group, gender, religion, handicap or socioeconomic status?
Let’s learn that in Jesus there is no room for bigotry.
Let’s examine prejudice and the value of all people in the context of Mark 7:24-37.
Mark 7:24 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, 26 and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter.
Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, 27 Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
28 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”
29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.
31 Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. 32 A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.
33 Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” 35 Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!
36 Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. 37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”
What Came out of a Mother’s Mouth?
Declaring all foods clean, Jesus includes Gentiles, as later revealed to Peter in Acts 10. Clean and unclean laws highlighted outdated ethnic division, but there are still unclean spirits, which use filthy language or cause people to live in filth. A little girl has an unclean spirit. Jesus challenged her Greek mother’s faith using the word dog (metaphorically unholy, enemy, sorcerer, idolater, sexually immoral, a people who killed their own unwanted babies). Jesus was not bigoted. He just fed a large crowd including Gentiles. Jesus’ words indicate that because of her answer, the child was healed. The previous passage emphasized what comes out of a person. What came out of the mother’s mouth revealed the humility, faith and perseverance required in prayer. Neither ethnicity, nor gender, nor our past sins stand in God’s way when we ask in faith-filled persistence.
Is this a Case for Open Communion?
Jesus words would be called politically incorrect today. But, correct words can come from a wrong heart. His politically incorrect words came from the heart of a loving creator. Her answer of faith and humility caused Jesus to heal her daughter. Some churches do not allow non-members to take communion. We are all pagan sinners in some ways. To exclude the unbaptized from supper with Christ arrogantly forbids those he might invite. Here we see an outsider’s faith, whereby she was granted the “bread” of divine healing. Do we invite non-Christians to imbibe of the preaching meal and then refuse to let them eat the Lord’s Supper? Allowing the unchurched to experience Christ in the Eucharist draws them. Jesus ate with both sinners and the righteous. Does he not do the same today? It is the Lord’s Table not ours.
Do we Have Taboos?
In ancient society a Jew did not speak with a Gentile and a man did not speak with a woman in public. They were so concerned about religious purity that they acted like some exclusive Christian sects do today. They refused to have anything to do with a Gentile. Speaking with a woman other than your wife or sister, could be a temptation. It could also damage your reputation, because those women who spoke openly with men in public were suspected of being prostitutes. What are our social taboos today that need to be trespassed. When was the last time we spoke with a person of a different ethnic group or someone else in public that everyone knew had an unpopular sin, when maybe our sins are commonly accepted? When was the last time we crossed the lines of prejudice on purpose?
What Came out a Man’s Mouth?
In Sidon, Jesus continued his sabbatical. Sidon was a Gentile city never conquered by ancient Israel. It had a long history of the worship of pagan gods like Baal and Astarte. There a man with a speech impediment was brought to him. The man obviously had difficulties with articulating what came out of his mouth, again tying this story into Jesus’ previous instructions about what comes out of our mouths. Like the man, we too need healing of our speech so that what comes out of our mouths is pure.
Is there Bigotry against Poor Workers?
Jesus healed a Gentile child and a handicapped man, breaking straight through the barriers of bigotry, including barriers of ethnicity, gender, religion and handicap. In James 2:1-17 we are warned against another form of bigotry against the poor working person. Labor Day honors workers. A good reputation is more important than wealth. Those who plant injustice harvest disaster. Blessed are the generous who feed the poor. Don’t rob or exploit the poor just because you can. The Lord defends them. He will ruin anyone who ruins them (Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23). Laziness is a mental disorder cured only by work. Work heals us. Yet, the Bible has many positive things to say about the blessing of being an ordinary worker. It is honest and honorable work that provides a deep sense of satisfaction and a good night’s sleep.
Does Work Heal?
Our society often undervalues workers, exploits them and pays them lower wages. Some people are bigoted against people who work, but the Bible highly honors those who labor. People who work hard, sleep well (Ecclesiastes 5:12). Do not make hired workers wait to receive their pay (Leviticus 19:13). You have six days for work (Deuteronomy 5:13-14). Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers (Deuteronomy 24:14). Take a lesson from the ants; they labor hard gathering food for winter (Proverbs 6:6-8). Work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically (Romans 12:11). Elders who work hard should be respected and paid well (1 Timothy 5:17). Lazy people are soon poor (Proverbs 10:4); those who work hard will prosper (Proverbs 13:4). Those unwilling to work will not get to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Do we honor those who work hard? Do we honor those of a different ethnicity, gender, religion, or status in our society? Society may devalue some people and honor others, but God highly values all people?