6/4/15 Jason about 23
Yesterday I had the chance to share my favorite Bible passage with a young man named Jason who grew up culturally Jewish but has rejected the religious aspects of his faith. Jason, just out of college with an English major and wondering what to do with his life, was at a park reading Hawthorne when I reached out to him and began an almost two hour conversation about Judaism and Christianity.
Jason’s main problem with Judaism, and, by extension, Christianity, is that he believes that a God who would choose to bless one group of people over another is just too unfair for him to believe in. He rejects the ideas that the Jews of the Old Testament are God’s chosen people, and that the Christian believers of the New Testament might also be the recipients of God’s grace. He wondered how I, as a Christian, felt about being outside of the Old Testament promises made specifically to the nation of Israel, so I told him about my favorite passage – the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7.
This woman was a Gentile like myself, and had reached out to Jesus with a request that He drive an evil spirit from her daughter. Jesus’ response was a reminder that the primary mission and energy of His earthly ministry was to the Jewish people – “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” I told Jason that I know that God is not obligated by His covenant promises to bless me as a Gentile, not to mention that I know I deserve punishment for my rebellious sins against Him. But the woman responded to Jesus by saying “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” This is my favorite story because, like this woman, I will receive and greatly appreciate any grace I can, knowing I truly deserve none, but rather punishment instead. Jesus responded by telling her “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
This story seemed to especially touch Jason, I think because it showed him the nature of God’s grace – that it is undeserved – and yet is available to all. Jason and I talked long about why most Jews have historically rejected Jesus as the Messiah and now how many are abandoning belief in God Himself, and I think he began to understand his own rejection of the Judeo-Christian God as well. So much goes back to Genesis – does God have the right to forbid eating from a particular tree, to prefer Abel’s sacrifice rather than Cain’s, to favor Isaac over Esau, to sovereignly have preferences regardless of our acceptance or rejection of them? Do we think He owes us an explanation, or can we accept that He is God and we are not? The Syrophoenician woman did, and I pray Jason will too.