Friday, September 14, 2007

When God doesn't cooperate...

“Resentment is the belief that we are entitled to whatever we want.” -- mine

A large part of our struggle with God is that He doesn't always cooperate. This can be thorny, because He has all the power going for Him and we don't always accept this simple equation. I chose the passage of Mark 7:24-30 because Jesus' words in response to the Syrophoenician Woman’s request for her daughter’s healing appear so out of character. It seems he is mouthing the very words of the Pharisees of his generation and how they despised the gentiles as subhuman. Jesus could have been speaking tongue-in-cheek, testing the woman. Jesus definitely throws a curve ball at the woman yet it was her meek response to Jesus that He viewed as an act of faith.

I like to plunge into these kind of apparently contradictory texts, because we know that God is consistent even when He appears to be contradicting Himself.

Jesus had come for the sake of God's chosen people. They were His children. He reminded the woman of that fact -- the need for the children to be fed first. The term Jesus uses for "dogs" is a diminutive term in Greek. It refers not to the scavenger dogs, which were despised in Israel; but to the little, pet, house dogs, with which the children played.

Jesus is emphatic, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This was not meant to suggest that he was not interested in the woman's petition, he was simply reminding her of the proper course of his public ministry.However, this woman skillfully turned the Lord's metaphor to her advantage.”

Note all the hindrances that were thrown in this woman’s way, which only increased here faith.
• she had to find Jesus in an obscure place
• she was a gentile approaching a Jew
• she was a woman approaching a man in an era where that was not appropriate to do
• Jesus’ divine commission was focused on the Jewish believers

This passage can greatly help us when we happen to be caught up with a sense of entitlement, pride, or claims of victimization. Nearly every ethnicity, gender, age, etc. gives rise to charges of mistreatment and demands for remedial action. At all times we need to temper our persistence with humility. God is not obligated to help us, and any insistence on our part with arrogance only makes life harder. If you have any doubt about what entitlement means Laskowski makes it clear... Entitlement is an unrecognized attitude that undermines healing. “

This is the conundrum of what I shall call "entitlement"–a psychological state in which one feels he or she has the right to (i.e., is entitled to) rewards, special privileges, or recognition based on personal merit, achievement, or character. Psychologists and other mental health providers are in positions at particular risk for feelings of entitlement, and it is my goal to raise psychologists' awareness of this attitude and provide methods to avoid such feelings.”

Current American culture emphasizes the importance and rights of the individual and encourages interpersonal competition. People have undergone a significant amount of training, have sacrificed themselves financially and in relationships, have worked hard to excel in their careers, and value the wisdom they have accumulated, etc.¨ -- John G. Laskowski Wheaton College

Jesus will appear offensive to the proud and the unbelieving: if He is right, they are wrong! The Syrophoenician woman appealed to Jesus’ mercy, not his justice! God uses situations of need to draw us to Himself. It's true whenever things are going well in our lives, when there are no apparent needs, we become self-sufficient. It is as if we think we have everything under control and that we have a right to whatever we want.

A.W. Tozer put it this way:“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels. ... He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.”

© TR 2007

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