Summary: A sermon on racial tolerance and love for all humankind.
"There are No Foreigners in God’s Sight"
We humans are a strange breed.
Why on earth do we feel as if we have to discriminate between others based on where the others were born, or where they live, or what color their skin is, or if they are rich or poor, a Southerner or a Yankee, blue collar or white collar, English speaking or Spanish speaking...or if they just have a different accent based on where they have been raised...?
A friend of mine (Jim) told me a story about how, on his first day of pre-school, he met his very first black person...another little kid.
When Jim’s mother came to pick
Jim up from school that day, Jim wanted to show his mom this neat and fantastic thing he had discovered.
"Come here mom. Come here. This is Johnny. Feel his hair. Isn’t it neat?!"
How wonderfully different our world would be if we were to see the differences between us as fascinating and neat...as they are seen through a child’s eyes...instead of threatening or not as good!
In our Epistle Lesson for this morning, James the brother of Jesus tells us "as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism...If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ’Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin."
We have the "royal law," which refers to the whole law in the Old Testament and the New Testament as it is interpreted by Jesus...the Author of Life.
It is summed up in the commandment to love your neighbor.
James then takes it one step further...to show partiality is to sin...
...I wonder if this is true of showing partiality to the poor as well?
I think so.
I think this is radical stuff that says: ’show no partiality toward anyone.’
God does not show favoritism and neither should we!
Everyone we see, everyone we look at, everyone we meet...is to be Jesus to us...whether they are dressed in rags, or in the most expensive designer clothes.
For all are sinners in need of God’s love, mercy, kindness and salvation.
A pastor was once looking through some old church records of a Norwegian congregation which listed it’s membership as: "52 souls and 2 Swedes."
And in a sense, this is the kind of thing Jesus was facing in our Gospel Lesson for this morning.
Remember last week’s sermon.
Jesus was in a discussion about what is ’clean’ and what is ’unclean.’
Well, the Jews certainly thought that any foreigners were to be deemed ’unclean.’
And here, again, Jesus shows us that there is quite a contrast between the "commands of God" and the "traditions of men" as to what is clean and unclean...
It is "from within"-- what comes "out of men’s hearts"-- that make a person ’clean’ or ’unclean’.
God does not judge people as people judge people.
God looks at the inside...we, often tend to look at the outside.
What does God see when He looks at the inside of us?
Are we clean or unclean?
Anyhow, Jesus is approached by a woman "whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit."
And this woman came and fell at Jesus’ feet.
"She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter."
The Gospel tells us that this woman was a Greek, born in Syria Phoenicia.
She was a Gentile. She was not of the Jewish race. She was not thought of as one of God’s ’chosen’ people.
She was not a natural descendant of Abraham.
Now the Gentiles were sometimes described as ’dogs’ by the Jews.
This was quite an insult.
We have the equivalent of this insult in our culture...the meaning of which is a female dog.
Now, Jesus says a very strange thing to this Syrophoenician woman.
He says: "First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs."
Israel felt as if they were God’s children...and that everyone else were dogs.
So, Jesus, in teaching us another lesson about God and His kingdom, says what He knows the people around Him are thinking.
They are thinking that this woman is a dog, and she has no right to ask for the healing of her daughter...or for anything for that matter!
And by making this reference...Jesus is making a distinction between the claims of the children of Israel and what Christ’s ministry is really about.
Jesus was often confronted by the self-righteous, by those who thought that they were better than everyone else simply because of their race.
For example, in John chapter 8, Jesus was speaking to a group of Jews...or a group of people who were natural descendants of Abraham...