Monday, July 11, 2011

Snubbed

When I was deciding to go to graduate school for the first time, I had a meeting with a faculty member who I did not know at the time. I was definitely not prepared for what was coming during this meeting. I felt like this faculty member was trying to talk me out of joining the department to which he was a member. His questions were probing and his outlook was quite cynical. Several times, he got my heart beating fast and left me stumbling on my words, which is not normal for me. I left that encounter with some blaring questions and doubts about the whole endeavor. I also did not have positive feelings about the faculty member who blindsided me with his questions and demeanor. 
Looking back on it now, I see it completely different. Going through that level of scrutiny ended up being a very positive experience. I realized that I did not have it all together. It led me to think deeply and research widely my own motivation and to investigate my purpose. Eventually I learned how that faculty member was actually very helpful in my time there and I respected his honesty.
In Matthew 15, Jesus did something that seems out of character for him. A Canaanite woman comes to him for healing and he basically snubbed her, telling her that it was not right to give the children’s bread to the dogs. The woman then responds in her desperation, saying “even the dogs eat the crumbs from the master’s table.” Then Jesus tells her that she has great faith and heals her daughter.
To me, it really seems like Jesus was being a jerk to this woman, but that is not the whole story. We see that normally in the Bible that Canaanites are seen as less than holy people. They were the people that God instructed the Israelites to take over and destroy, creating in our minds a pretty negative connotation. However, a commentary I read about this passage suggested that in the time of Jesus, being a Canaanite meant that she was a Greek citizen of an elite class, higher on the pecking order of society than the Jews. 
Therefore, Jesus’ words to her likely required her to do something that she would not normally do as a member of an elite class, recognize someone’s authority above her own, calling him the “master.” It seems that Jesus was powerfully teaching her some humility, even though that lesson may not come blaring through the text.
As a new graduate student, I needed to learn a little humility myself. That difficult meeting helped me in a way that an encouraging meeting may not have. I wish I could say that these lessons are few and far-between, but they are not. I think we all need that lesson. I am thankful that God keeps working on me.

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