There is a passage in the New Testament that, if I am brutally honest, I do not like.
The story concerns a Canaanite woman who has a problem with her daughter (Matthew 15 vs. 21 – 28). Jesus seems to ignore the woman’s plight, seems to dismiss her and then refers to her in a derogatory term;
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matthew 14 vs. 26)
I suppose, I do not like this passage because, I do not like the Jesus that it presents here. I like the loving, gracious, compassionate Jesus. I do not like the one who ignores somebody in need and, when he finally gives his attention, calls her by an insulting name.
I think Jesus does this to teach his disciples and, by extension us, a valuable lesson.
Jesus uses terms and behaves in a way that his society at that time would have treated this lady. Her gender, her race and her needs would have excluded her in every way from polite male company. She was “other”.
What Jesus taught was that in his Kingdom. All are welcome. All are loved. All are God’s children.
I think the problem comes for many of us when we confuse boundaries with barriers. They are not the same thing.
Boundaries can be healthy.
They can keep things together, they can protect they can help us distinguish between good attitudes and bad.
The point of a barrier is to divide. You are either one side of the barrier or you are on the other. You are either in or out. Barriers are excluding, they are designed to keep people out.
Too easily the healthy boundary can be turned into an unhealthy barrier.
As part of my quiet time, I listen to the “Pray as you go” app. ( https://pray-as-you-go.org/ ). Although today’s reading was not about this story, there was something the guide said that reminded of this passage. He said;
Love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbours
As I thought about these words I reflected that good changes have come from barrier breaking
The civil rights movement broke the barriers
The abolition of slavery broke the barriers
The ordination of women broke the barriers.
In our own day and in our own age I believe God is reminding the Church that His kingdom is about breaking down barriers because love of him cannot be separated from our love of neighbours.
I wonder, what barriers you see and what can we do to break them?