Was Jesus a Racist?

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Paidion
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Was Jesus a Racist?

Post by Paidion » Wed Mar 10, 2021 7:13 pm

It seems that some people regard Jesus as a racist based on the following account in Matthew:

Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that district came out crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon."
But Jesus just ignored her. He didn't say a word to her. But she persisted, and so His disciples asked him to send her away. So He said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But she came and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord help me.”

To that He replied, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”
Jesus' words suggest that He regarded the Canaanite people as “dogs”.

However, the Canaanite woman was humble. She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”

Apparently that this response touched the heart of Jesus. He answered her in this way, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

This account may be read in Matthew 15:1-8

Did Jesus regard Israelites as God's children and all other nations or ethnic groups as “dogs”?

I, personally, do not hold the view that Jesus was racist. Yet, I admit that I fail to understand Jesus referring to the woman and her daughter as “dogs”. What are your thoughts about this?
Paidion

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luke
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Re: Was Jesus a Racist?

Post by luke » Fri Mar 12, 2021 1:17 am

This is a tough one. These words of Jesus have been hard for me to swallow. However I think there is an explanation nonetheless.

Dogs were an unclean animal in the Jewish Law, so I think this statement can be paralleled to what he says in the sermon on the mount, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs" (Matthew 7:6), dogs=unholy, unholy=gentiles. Jesus' ministry was focused on reaching the Jews, as He says in Matthew 10:5-6 when He sent out the twelve "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." So it seems that Jesus wasn't eager to help this woman because His ministry was supposed to be focused on the Jews before reaching the Gentiles.

However, it does seem strange that He could respond so uncaringly toward this woman after she confesses Him as the Christ by referring to him as "Son of David" and worships Him. But ultimately He does end up granting her request and healing the demon-possessed daughter because of the woman's great faith.

My theory is thus; maybe Jesus knew that this woman would be persistent, give a witty response and exhibit great faith, so He initially denied her request in order that her great faith might be revealed...? Thoughts?

Would love to hear what Steve has to say about this passage.

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darinhouston
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Re: Was Jesus a Racist?

Post by darinhouston » Fri Mar 12, 2021 9:50 am

I would also love to hear Steve's perspective on this one. I'll see if I can find it in the verse by verse lectures. Meanwhile, I take it at face value initially and consider first that this isn't necessarily a "race" issue -- it's more of a "nationality" or xenophobia issue. Though a subtle difference, God created the nation of Israel and there were ways "in" to the nationality. This is a very different situation than race - something you're born with and cannot change. Since God created the nation specifically to be his "special" people, it is natural for Jesus to consider them "lesser" in at least some sense. Perhaps we don't like him referring to a people of any sort by use of a term such as "dogs" but he was in a cultural situation different than ours. I also think Luke could be on to something with his "playing along" motif, though I don't think that explains it completely.

Perhaps also her humility suggested she was not just trying to "get into the group" for the wrong reasons but that she was actually part of spiritual Israel in the way Paul speaks of in Romans. Her "confession" wasn't necessarily enough since you can confess that with a heart less than recognizing him as Lord. But, when she did indicate the state of her heart, he accepted her, just as he does with us.

Here is the relevant teaching -- I'm reviewing later:
https://thenarrowpath.com/audio/verse-b ... -15.28.mp3

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darinhouston
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Re: Was Jesus a Racist?

Post by darinhouston » Fri Mar 12, 2021 2:04 pm

I had another thought. What’s worse? Calling them dogs but permitting an honest seeker? Or withholding the good news from them until the proper time?

steve7150
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Re: Was Jesus a Racist?

Post by steve7150 » Sun Mar 14, 2021 9:08 pm

However, it does seem strange that He could respond so uncaringly toward this woman after she confesses Him as the Christ by referring to him as "Son of David" and worships Him. But ultimately He does end up granting her request and healing the demon-possessed daughter because of the woman's great faith.









Jesus normally focused on spiritual things so "dogs" could have been a spiritual reference to gentiles being pagans at that time and nothing more then that. He does change his attitude when she reveals her faith and that she is not a pagan.

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Jason
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Re: Was Jesus a Racist?

Post by Jason » Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:57 am

Could it be that Jesus was merely testing her? Or perhaps he was using the occasion to shame his Jewish hearers for having less faith than a gentile woman? The encounter does a good job of illustrating how the humble are blessed while those who consider themselves to be "God's favorites" are often lacking. Seems pretty "on brand" for Jesus.

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luke
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Re: Was Jesus a Racist?

Post by luke » Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:01 pm

Jason, that's a really great point. I think that's the emphasis of the story. It's almost a foreshadowing that Gentiles could also have faith in Christ.

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