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I’m also thankful for a Jesus who was willing to listen to her, a Jesus open to being shown a larger view even of his own world. Had Jesus sent her away, one could have argued, he would have done the “right” thing according to some of his peers, yet a great injustice would have been committed and therefore it would have been wrong. Instead he listened to her, and he entered into a fuller experience of his own ethical teachings of love and justice that day, thanks to this woman.
Jesus models for us how we, too, can grow in the way we understand our world by being open to listening to the experiences and stories of those who are unlike ourselves. We are not all the same. We are all of the same worth. Yet there is vast diversity within humanity, and these differences should not only be celebrated, they should also be heard, attended to, and learned from.
In our present system, those whose difference causes them to be seen or treated as less-than should be heard. By being open to their experience and stories, we can expand our own understanding of what a just and safe world for everyone looks like.
We can be like Jesus, the Jesus in this specific story: to follow Jesus, to mimic his example. We can choose in these moments, not to get defensive, but to apologize when our own faults are pointed out, and to be humble enough and willing to embrace change.
As a white, straight, cisgender, middle-class male, I’m reminded of the times those who are different from me have called me to understand the world in much larger ways. I’m thankful for my feminist, womanist, LGBTQ, Black, and Brown friends, and many others who, like the woman in this story, cared about me enough to push back on my limited way of perceiving the world. They expended energy to help me understand how hurtful my behavior was, and they not only called me to be better, but also believed I could be. For each of them, I am deeply grateful. They didn’t have to do that. They could have just left me as ignorant as they found me, but instead, like the Syrophoenician woman, they engaged a labor of love on my behalf. I’m also glad I chose to listen.
This story also calls me to continue this process. It calls me to look out for places I still need to grow in my understanding of others and our work of making our world a safe, just home for everyone.
In a way, the Jesus of this story in Mark faced the same dilemma we each face when navigating social realities, and so I’m thankful to see this side of Jesus. I’m just as thankful for the woman who helped him grow in compassion and justice.
I wish we had more time to discuss the second story in this week’s reading, but we’ll get to it another time. It’s a story with a long history of ableist interpretations that have done much damage to disabled people.
For now, may we show the same willingness to perceive the world in much larger ways that we see in the Jesus of our story this week. If Christians would follow Jesus in just this one thing alone, what a difference it would make!