Lives Matter – Part 2
Keep The Faith Baby!
There is a pattern and practice of discrimination against Black people in this country that sends a clear message that Black Lives do not matter. All too often pleas of Black people are ignored, our pains are individualized as personal problems and we are often insulted as a people. However, our progress in this country is connected to our faith. We cannot give up praying, protesting or making our plea for justice even when we have been ignored, individualized or ignored. The Black response to social injustices must be cultivated by our faith in Jesus Christ. We must keep the faith.
Dr. Oscar T. Moses
In this conversation that Jesus had with a Black woman we learn a very valuable lesson. Society ignores, individualizes and insults certain groups of people. Yet, it is essential how those groups of people should respond.
The Pursuit of Possibility
A woman came to Jesus with a matter concerning her daughter that was vexed with a devil. Word quickly spread of the miraculous healings that had taken place throughout the region at the hands of Jesus. Matthew 4:24 confirms that the report spread throughout all of Syria, and many brought those who were sick, afflicted, diseased and under the power of demons to Jesus, and He healed them. This mother thought it was possible that if Jesus healed others He would grant her request even though she was not a Jew. Canaanites and Israelites had a sorted past together. They did not mingle or interact with one another. Yet, this Canaanite woman set out on the pursuit of the possibility that this young Jewish healer would heal her Canaanite daughter. She saw Him and imagination suggests that she took off running towards Him and cried saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David”. She used His Messianic title, Son of David. “My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.”
The Silence of the Savior
She was met with silence. Jesus did not say a word. He ignored her. This is not the normal response of Jesus; especially, when one has sought Him and asked for mercy. The disciples said, “Send her away; for she cries after us.” Some scholars suggests that the disciples were not saying for Jesus to ignore her but to heal her so she could be on her way and leave them alone. This thought better fits Jesus’ following statement, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
The Forging of Faith
This saying of Jesus does not detour or faze this woman. She is persistent. Then she worshipped him, saying, “Lord, help me.” Jesus said, “It is not right for me to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Her reply was, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters ‘table.” Then Jesus answered and said unto her, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Immediately.
Scholars say that the land of Canaan extended from Northern Africa along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea into the Arabian Peninsula. She was a black woman. By Jewish standards she was all-wrong; she was of a people that Joshua had overthrown 1,400 years earlier and had made into servants. She was from the Gentile world. Her religion had failed her, and her life was falling apart. She came to Jesus and he did 4 things:
- He ignored her pleas: He responded as though she was not there. She even used His Messianic name, “Son of David” and she asked for mercy. Yet the savior ignored her.
- He individualized her problem: When the woman expressed her problem Jesus’ response was, “I didn’t come for your people.” Jesus literally said, “I came for the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” The text suggests that Jesus individualized her problem as “her problem” or “their problem” and not His. Jesus made this statement because she was not of Jewish ancestry. Canaanites worshipped Baal. She did not have the same code of beliefs, morals or ethics as the Jewish people.
- He insulted her people: He called her people dogs. There are some scholars that say this saying referred to her as a “puppy” and would have been accepted as a cultural title for Canaanites. “It is not right for me to give the children’s bread to the dogs.” This statement of Jesus is symbolic; children refer to the Children of Israel, God’s people. When Jesus mentioned bread He is making reference to Himself. Bread was viewed in that day as a symbol of life’s necessities being met. When the Children of Israel were in the wilderness God gave them bread. David rescued Mephibosheth and his promise was, “You shall eat bread continuously at the Kings table.” When Jesus taught the disciples to pray His instructions were to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Bread represents the “necessities of life.” Jesus was saying. “This bread is not for you!” He called her people dogs because the Jews considered Canaanites unclean. Leviticus 11 says that dogs are unclean animals and she agreed with the Lord.
- He identifies her power: Jesus identifies this woman’s determination, her tenacity and persistence. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. Her faith was the needed ingredient.
It is the faith of Black people that have made us so valuable and resilient. We have been ignored, individualized and insulted but our power has been identified in our faith. This is an unusual story because it makes Jesus look insensitive and insulting but these traits do not fall in line with the character of our Savior. The prima facie evidence looks baffling. However, if one were to look deeper one would discover that Jesus was really being instructive. He used this woman as an example to teach the disciples as well as others that our faith can overcome our frustrations. This lesson becomes a clinical case study for those in society who have been ignored, individualized and insulted that your value cannot be determined by what others think about you but it is determined by your faith in God. It is a teachable lesson that we must be persistent as this woman was for Jesus’ intervention. Jesus was no doubt, testing her faith. Our faith will be tested against a culture that continues to ignore our pleas, individualize our pain and insult our people but we must continue to fight for equal rights because of our faith. When we give up too soon we don’t learn what we need to learn… we don’t experience what we should experience… and we miss the blessing we could have had.
Let’s look at….
- Reality: We must face the reality that some people want nothing to do with us. However, a person’s perception of who they think we are should never become our reality. What’s real is that there are people that see no value in Black life. That’s real. There are people that will ignore Black people simply because of the color of their skin. Society will ignore your pleas but keep the faith: Frederick Douglass said keep on pleading because Power never conceded anything without a demand. It never has and it never will.
- Humility: The intention of Jesus’ statement was to penetrate and expose her humility. This woman was flat out ignored and appeared as though she had been insulted but she didn’t fly off the handle. She didn’t just walk away but she continued the conversation. There are times when life causes one to be humble and focus on the end results. Society will individualize our pain or problems but keep the faith. Former Mayor Rudi Giuliani recently made the statement that recent police killings in the black community are our fault. Professor Michael Eric Dyson said, “That is a defense mechanism statement of the privileged in our country to remove them from any responsibility of unjust killings in our community.”
- Ability: Our ability to hold on to the faith cannot be compromised even through recent Black sitcoms, i.e., Empire, Scandal or Mary Jane. There are some things we should never allow to become sacrilegious and devalue US as a people. There are tenets of whom we are as Christians that should always rise to the top. Society will insult our people but keep the faith: Politicians can be insulting to our people. They can buy preachers with money, buy votes with a beer and a ham sandwiches, but we must keep the faith. Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. rose to fame by leading a boycott of shops along 125th Street that would sell to African-American shoppers but would not hire them to work at the stores. He started a movement called, “Don’t Shop Where You Can’t Work”! He became New York’s first black city council member in 1941. In 1944, he was elected to the House of Representatives—the first African-American from New York—and served until 1970. In congress, Powell was integral to the Civil Rights movement and as chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor saw to it that legislation on school lunches, student loans, and the minimum wage got passed. At the end of his life society had insulted him and ignored him but he never let them see it. The phrase “Keep the faith baby”, was used to encourage our people to keep their heads held high, and to stay in the struggle.
How do you keep the faith?
- Reality – This woman did not ignore the fact that her people were looked down upon in society. One must face reality that there will be some people that will never accept our race, our beliefs or our concerns. One must also accept the reality that Jesus is the only answer for our frustrations.
- Humility – As Christians we are taught to humble ourselves under the hand of God and He will exalt us in due season. Humility does not mean to sit back and accept what Society brings our way. It simply means to allow God to order and direct our steps as His servants.
- Ability – God has given every believer the ability to do something to glorify Him. Use what you have been given by God to make a difference in the world. Your ability will be cultivated by your faith.
Jesus saw this woman had a grasp on reality. She knew He was able to address her frustration. Jesus recognized her humility to be under His command. Jesus saw her ability in that her faith was so strong that she persisted in her plea for His intervention. Jesus said to this woman, “Woman you have great faith. Be it done for you as you will.” He did not say, “as you want” because want means you have a desire but He said, “as you will” because will means you have made a decision. She had decided to make Jesus her choice and when you make a decision for Jesus he can make some decisions for you. Keep the faith baby.
The text says that her daughter was healed in the same hour. Her daughter was immediately cured. Jesus healed her immediately but sometimes His healings are eventually. Don’t ever lose the faith because Jesus does not do it immediately. Sometimes He moves in the eventually. God heard Martin Luther King Jr. and his cry for our people to be recognized but he did it not answer immediately. It was eventually we elected the first black president of the United States in Barak Obama.
Is it not strange that the Lord changed the topic from healing to eating? She requested that her daughter be healed and Jesus’ response was related to eating; “It is not right for m to give bread to dogs.” To the Lord eating is more important than healing. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus appears to be saying that we can deal with earthly sorrows when we have an eternal solution. Jesus is talking about salvation! And here in this text the mission of Jesus changed directions. When Jesus sees that a woman that was not Jewish had faith it became a pivotal shift for the ministry of Jesus to indicate He was available to all men. This opened up salvation to the world not just the Jews. All lives matter! This is true, yet when one group of people has been significantly devalued it becomes incumbent upon that group to protest injustice lest they become participants in their own demise.
KEEP THE FAITH BABY!
Dr. Oscar T. Moses