We love to look at people and judge them on the basis of what we see. We looked at Lance Armstrong and saw a guy who beat cancer and won Tour de France titles. We saw Bill Cosby as a barrier-breaking comedian and father figure.
A non-Israelite woman (in Mark, a Syrophoenician; in Matthew, a Canaanite) approaches Jesus, begging him to heal her daughter. Jesus replies that it is improper to give the “bread of the children” (Israelites) to the “dogs” (gentiles). The woman responds that even the “small pups under the table” (Amplified Bible) eat the crumbs that fall from the table. After this brief repartee, Jesus tells the woman to go home because the demon has left her daughter. In Matthew, Jesus informs the woman that the healing was a result of her faith (Matt. 15:28), but the Markan Jesus simply says, “Because of this answer [logos, literally “word”], go; the demon has gone out of your daughter” (Mark 7:29, NASV). It is not just her cleverness that Jesus admires; it is the word (cf. Mark 7:13) that she proclaims, the word that the mercies of God should be made available to the gentiles now and not at some point in the distant future. The scene is illustrated in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, a devotional book of hours made by the Limbourg brothers in the early 15th century. The upper panel depicts the woman pleading with Jesus, who has turned away from her; the woman’s possessed daughter is visible through a window on the right. In the lower scene, the woman is still pleading on behalf of her daughter (now out of view), but now Jesus offers a gesture of consent and healing—the reward for a desperate mother’s persistence.
By far the most uncomfortable pastoral work I do is with people who want help for relatives in churches that are far away. I once got a call from one such relative who had been elected secretary of a church committee and wondered how she should minute the meeting. Worse are the complaints about pastors who do things I have done. (“My brother says they don’t sing hymns everyone knows. What can we do?”)
My wife, our four sons, and I occasionally take family trips into Washington, D.C. We always go in uniform: everyone wears the same T-shirt. We like the visibility of bright orange, and our current uniform is a loud orange advertisement for the West Michigan White Caps, the minor league baseball team in Grand Rapids.