August 16, 2020: Faith Breaks Boundaries

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Whoever we are, wherever we’re from, our culture gives us certain rules, certain standards by which we have to live, in order to “get along” with others. Often those standards involve boundaries that we know we’re not supposed to challenge.

Those boundaries sometimes involve where we shouldn’t go, what we shouldn’t wear, or with whom we shouldn’t associate. (When I was a child, it was against fashion “laws” for a female to wear slacks to church.)

Jesus had been raised with the laws of “correct” Jewish culture. Good Jews, and especially God’s Chosen One, just didn’t associate with Canaanites.

The Canaanite woman in today’s passage was also aware of this restriction, and would naturally have been hesitant (or even fearful) to ask this Jewish rabbi to help her daughter. However, her love for her child gave her the courage to reach across the boundary, with faith that this man, Jesus, could offer the help she needed.

We can almost picture Jesus’ internal conflict as he at first gave the “acceptable” answer: that his gift of God’s mercy should be reserved for his own people. But when the woman responded with her own logic, and with love that conquered her fear, Jesus’ own innate love enabled him to help the woman’s daughter.

It is difficult for us even now to challenge and tear down the boundaries that our culture imposes on us. Jesus was impressed by the Canaanite woman’s faith. I hope that we can all have enough faith and love to break the boundaries that separate us from God’s children.

Willie Israel, retired pastor, Asheville, North Carolina