I recently attended an interfaith dialogue meeting and it was my first time joining this particular group. During the discussion, a gentleman who had an unwelcoming experience at a Christian church in his youth had found another faith, but it seemed the experience left him a bit embittered. He pointed out a story in the Bible about Jesus, that in this man’s telling of it, made Jesus seem like not a very nice guy. However, the man only told part of the story and seemed to leave out the most important part about healing that comes at the end. This is the story depicted in the book of Matthew, Chapter 15. Jesus was approached by a Canaanite woman requesting that he heal her daughter who was mentally ill. At first Jesus didn’t respond and the disciples asked him to send her away. After the woman pleads with him, he does respond to say “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” This is where this man in the meeting I was attending ended the story to demonstrate his point that Jesus was not the compassionate, merciful savior that Christians believe him to be.
However, I was grateful that another attendee pointed out, that this is not where the story ends. Jesus does ultimately heal the daughter. And yet another attendee stated, that the woman corrected Jesus and he took the correction and then healed her. This gave me a lot to ponder.
First of all, I found myself taking offence at this gentleman’s telling of the story. But then when I thought about it more later, I recognized, that actually this story had always bothered me too. I knew Jesus healed the woman’s daughter, but I was always bothered that he spoke to her the way he had, because it seemed very … well, un-Jesus-like or un-Christ-like. However, I really appreciated hearing the perspective that Jesus took the correction and changed his approach. It got me thinking. What humility that must have taken to stand corrected, and not only that but in that very same moment to turn around and express that much mercy, compassion and love as to heal. I know humility can actually be one of the greatest qualities of a true leader and I know Jesus to be a humble servant of God, but this was a new form of humility I had not recognized in him before.
I started to think, am I that humble? When someone corrects me, do I take the correction? And even more, do I take it and then turn around and change my behavior and respond with mercy, compassion and love in that very moment? Or do I stew on it for a while – hours, weeks, months – starting with self-justification for why I said or did what I said or did, and then moving on to perhaps realizing I was wrong and then feeling embarrassed, ashamed or guilty, or do I then worry about what the other person must think of me and rehearse the situation and think of all the ways I could have responded better and start berating myself for being so foolish or mean or whatever it seemed I was in that moment.
So thinking about how I might normally deal with being corrected, I began to be in awe of Jesus’ capacity for humility, grace and compassion. I also love that not only did he take the correction, but was then able to bring healing to the entire situation in that very moment. I am so grateful for this lesson in humility.
I learned a few other lessons with this situation in this meeting… about making sure we get the whole story before we pass judgment, about loving our neighbor as ourself, and about forgiveness… check out future blogs for those lessons.