In Mark chapter seven Jesus encountered a Greek woman whose daughter was demon possessed, His reply to her request to heal her daughter is not what we might expect from a God of love. ““Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and to throw it to the dogs.” Jesus refused her request because she was not a Jew, which we might think odd coming for our Lord who gives grace freely and not according to anything in us. Furthermore, He called her a dog, which is not something any twenty-first century counselor is trained to do. Jesus, however, seldom follows the normal course of human behavior, certainly not the sinful part but He does love everyone.
Would the average Christian today consider the way Jesus spoke to this Greek woman loving? Jesus loved the Father and this He does by obeying His will. And it was the Father’s will that Jesus should go to the Jew first. In Matthew’s account our Lord responded to her by saying, ““I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” However, Jesus responded to the woman’s incredible humility and faith, which was expressed in her words, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She took the place of a dog before our Lord, and expressed that she understood her sinfulness. Christ responded to her faith, God given as it was, and in Mathew’s account referred to it as, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” What made this woman’s faith so great was her willingness to accept Jesus’ assessment of her; Jesus referred to her as a dog and she said, “yes.” God does not send good people to hell, and all people who do not receive Christ by faith go to hell. This woman took her rightful place as a Gentile (not called) dog, but she cried out for mercy to Christ. The result was Christ healed her daughter, and proclaimed to all the Jews standing by the nature of saving faith.
In contrast to a Gentile woman who Jesus referred to as a dog with great faith, we read of a Jew who thought he was good in Mark ten. This rich man as he is referred to approached Jesus and falls on his knees, which gave him the appearance of humility, but then referred to Jesus as “good teacher.” Jesus certainly was a good teacher, but Jesus knew this man’s heart and questioned him about the use of his terms. ““Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” The question is why he was calling any man good, and that is all he saw Jesus to be and not God incarnate. Did he view himself as good? Well certainly he did, because when Jesus answered his question as to how he might inherit eternal life by “keep the commandments,” this rich Jew said he had, and from his youth up, which meant always.
Interesting that he used the word “inherit” when referring to eternal life. Inheritance is something you receive because of who you are or who you are related to, as in the case of being a Jew. Unlike the Greek woman who thought herself to be a dog in God’s sight, this Jew thought himself to have kept the law sufficient to inherit eternal life as a Jew or chosen of God. Jesus brought reality crashing down upon his conceit when He said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Jesus, in a single statement brought the man face to face with the reality of his true condition – a self-righteous, self-loving, and a God abhorring sinner.
The thought I want to bring out in these two accounts is how Jesus loved people. We are told, when the self-righteous Jew said he had kept the commandments, Jesus looked at him, and loved him. Jesus contemplated this man’s condition, understood exactly what he needed and then counseled him accordingly. Jesus did not respond emotionally or with some superficial sentimentality but instead Jesus loved this man’s eternal soul. So no matter how it might hurt to question his ability to keep the law or his Jewish heritage, Jesus called him out as a self-deceiver and required of him saving faith. You need to trust God and stop trusting yourself is what HE said in effect.
Jesus clearly called the Greek woman a dog. It is frustrating to see how much counseling is almost devoid of this kind of frankness today. It seems more important not to offend a person’s fragile emotions, their defense systems that are born out of pride, and their sensitivities because they view themselves as poor victims rather than to confront sinners with the reality of their condition. Jesus never meant to hurt either of these two people, in reality He loved them as they needed to be loved. The word for love in Mark is Agapeo, which is the verb form to love. Such love is not primarily sentimental or affectionate, but is unselfish, not conditional upon anything in the individual being loved but issuing forth from a heart of love.
Do we love people enough to speak the truth even though it might offend them, ruin the relationship we have with them, and make us look bad? If we love in this way we will watch our words carefully so that we do not unnecessarily offend, but we will not hold back words that need to be spoken because they will do the greatest good.