I heard it in a scene from a Jeremy Sisto film called, quite simply, Jesus.
In it, a tattered, tearful woman rushes down a hill toward Jesus and his disciples, begging Jesus to save her daughter.
“But you’re not a Jew,” Jesus says—surprisingly, as Sisto’s version is charming and playful most of the time. And then, as she continues to beg, he adds, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
That’s when I hit “Pause.” I couldn’t believe it. My Jesus said that?
I reluctantly hit “Play,” in the hope that my faith would be restored. And I was deeply relieved to discover that the scene ended a lot better than I expected.
But even so, I rushed to Google up a Bible and find that passage, kind of hoping I wouldn’t, to be honest. Hollywood does take liberties.
But sure enough there it was, Matthew 15:21-28:
Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
That’s one heck of a story, Jesus being schooled by a woman. You’d think I would have remembered that, having read the Bible twice, from start to finish. Maybe I’d deliberately let it fade away. I was a Jesus fan long before my recent conversion, so I can see how I might’ve cut Him some slack on that.
But the lesson it taught was worth remembering. And I think about and talk about it often, especially in the contentious times we’re in now. Everybody’s angry at everybody. The whole world seems to be throwing a tantrum.
And what amazes and saddens me most, as a new convert, is how angry some Catholics are about almost everything, but especially Pope Francis. After the Pope recently granted all priests the authority to forgive women who have had an abortion, someone actually called him an “asshole,” on Twitter. Another called him a “commie” and a “killer.” No, really, here’s the actual screenshot:
I wasn’t surprised, actually. I’ve noticed that the Catholic press seems to go into fits of pique about almost everything he does. They seem worried that he’s not “strict” enough. That he’s bending, breaking or discarding old rules willy nilly. That the whole world is going to Hell in a hand cart because we’ve gone so “soft.”
But I would like to offer a humble hypothesis about all this, based on that story that shocked me so much, and a whole bunch of others I’ve found in the Bible. Moments when Jesus breaks the rules to the consternation of the “devout” who berate and even insult him.
How many times does He tell the so-called holy people he meets that some previously despised person in the village will get to Heaven before they do? How many times does He pardon a sinner—even a woman caught in the act of committing adultery? What does he say to the people so determined to throw those stones at her?
Oh, you’ve heard it a thousand times. There’s even a joke in which his mother, Mary, after her Son has challenged anyone without sin to cast that first stone, picks up a stone and heaves it with gusto.
In the joke, he says, “Aw, c’mon, Mom, quit showing off!” In the Bible, nobody takes him up on that challenge.
He forgives almost everybody for almost everything. He is, after all, a Son of David, the murderer and adulterer who was, nevertheless, also beloved of God. And we are all sons and daughters of sinners, too. Some of whom we haven’t forgiven yet.
Who do we think we are?
So here’s my hypothesis. It’s pretty simple, really. What if all these things we get so mad about are really Jesus asking us to do what he did with that poor Gentile woman?
What if the gay couple you got so angry about for walking by holding hands was put in your path so Jesus could see if you could love them as much as He does?
What the Pope who made it easier for women who’ve had abortions to rush back into the arms of their Savior were acting on His behalf, challenging us to put those stones down, just as Jesus did when that mob came rushing up?
It’s not supposed to be easy. Sometimes it hurts so bad we can’t believe we’re being asked to do this thing. But He’s taught me to do this kind of interesting attitude adjustment whenever I get my knickers in a twist. I stop, breathe and say, “Wait on the Lord a minute.” And then I don’t do or say anything for a few minutes, days, weeks.
And at some point, I get a crystal clear message. A feeling inside, a song on the radio, a headline I notice in passing, an email with a subject line that blows my mind or even an actual statement made by someone I love and respect that speaks directly to the problem.
And sometimes the answer isn’t what I wanted it to be–it’s usually a challenge to see it another way or accept something I thought was completely unacceptable at first. For love.
And because I know Who’s talking, I thank Him and get on with it.
He hung on the cross to show us how to handle the pain. Blessing a thief and even the people who’d put those nails in his wrist and feet, with his last words. That’s how mighty–and merciful–our God is.
And I truly believe He keeps pitching us these curve balls, waiting to see if we’ll recognize what He’s up to. That he’s waiting for us to “get in the game,” and do what He taught us to do.
So the next time you get that knot in your stomach and your fists balled up ready to do battle, take that “WWJD” thing to heart and give it another think. Is He testing you?
I promise you, you’ll know if you passed that test. Nobody loves on you like Jesus.
Pass some on.