Just Like Jesus

Please note that these are not actual prisoners. They are my daughters at Silver Dollar City.

Lately, I’ve kinda felt like Jesus.

Not Jesus when he was kind-hearted and compassionate–blessing the children and touching the lepers.

Not Jesus when he was in the miracle groove–oozing healing power onto everyone who touched him or turning a few iffy fish into the best potluck meal ever.

Not Jesus when he was impressing (and intimidating) people with his deep, godly thoughts–preaching the Sermon on the Mount, telling funny yet provocative parables.

No, I kinda feel like Jesus when he insulted the Canaanite woman. (Matthew 15:21-28)

You remember the story? She stops him in the street to ask him to heal her daughter. He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. . . . It is not right to take the children’s food and feed it to the dogs.”

He doesn’t want to be bothered by this woman. He doesn’t feel like dealing with a Canaanite. He wants to do his ministry the way he has envisioned it–with people who are like him, with people he likes.

Oh, how Christ-like I am. I put off answering that email from a stranger who is clearly needy and confused. I let the letter from the man in jail sit on my desk for days before I even read it. I hesitate to pick up the phone and call the pastor of the conservative church.

“I’ve come only to the lost liberal sheep of Lawrence, Kansas.”

The recent political season and the continuing debates within our conference and denomination only make things worse. The more hateful and divisive and exhausting the public rhetoric becomes, the more I want to hunker down with MY people. Let others worry about the Canaanites, the mentally ill, the prisoners . . . the conservatives.

But the woman, of course, did not take “go away” for an answer. “Yes, Lord,” she says, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Her extension of Jesus’ metaphor exposes it for the lie that it is. This woman is not a dog, she is a human being who is suffering deeply. And so Jesus, humbled, consents and heals her daughter.

And the people reaching out to Christ through me are not “crazy” or “prisoners” or “conservatives.” They are not the labels I try to put on them so that I can dismiss them and move on to my real ministry. These people, like me and like those in my congregation, are children of God; suffering and searching children of God.

So my prayer is that I will be less like Jesus at the beginning of his encounter with the woman and more like him at the end. My prayer is that my frustration and exhaustion and fear will not prevent me from showing compassion to those around me. My prayer is that my vision of the ministry to which God has called me will not prevent me from doing the actual ministry to which God has called me.

And I pray the same for you, as we are all called to reach out with the love of Christ in this hurting world. Amen.

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