Years ago, when I was a police office, I was doing police work in a small,North Georgia town where I was also going to college to get my undergraduate degree. One afternoon I was sent to a local business in this small town to take a report on a robbery. Seems like someone just walked in, picked up the cash register, and walked out. Seemed straightforward enough. So I took the report and left and continued my shift. Well, about 30 minutes after I took the report, the chief of police called me to meet him at the station. He needed to speak to me. When I got to the station, he asked if I had any problems taking the report, and I said “no, everything went fine.” He could tell I was confused so he explained.
The business owner was a lifelong resident of this small, rural, town and he had called the chief, whom he knew personally, to complain about me. Apparently I wasn’t a “hometown boy” and this man didn’t feel comfortable speaking to someone who was a stranger to the hometown! I was an “outsider” to him!
Of course I understood immediately. As a lifelong Southerner, I know how we viewed folks who “weren’t from around here.” And I have had to explain to not a few friends from “up North” that when they were asked “Excuse me darlin’ but I don’t believe I know your daddy. Who are your people?” the person with the sincere smile on her face and the heavy Southern accent wasn’t being polite. She was letting everyone else around know that you weren’t to be trusted. You were a stranger! Seems like every culture has that same suspicion.
Look at Mark 7:24-30:
At that time, Jesus went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.
The Lord came to His world at a time when the culture of the people was clearly defined as to who was “in” and who was “out.” And the lady the Lord dealt with in this passage was certainly “out.” She was a Gentile and a woman, so, according to the culture of Jesus’ day she was not to be touched, not to be spoken to, or even acknowledged. She was, in Greek, “xeni” a stranger.
So why did the Lord speak to her this way? It seems both rude and cruel, especially in light of her natural mother’s love for her little girl. But, as usual, there is a reason. You see, we humans make excuses for our “cultural ways.” So, Jesus gives us an object lesson in the ugliness of treating someone, anyone, as an “outsider” unworthy of our attention and help. And this precious lady gives us a powerful lesson in humility and love. She cared nothing for her own ego. Her only concern was for her child. Christ sees this precious woman’s heart and heals her little girl!
Today, is the ugliness of prejudice lurking in your excuses about your life, your parish, or your community? Is the darkness of “us vs. them” clouding your heart and blinding you to the truth that we are all created in God’s image to be in His likeness? Perhaps it’s time to be like the “xeni” and dismiss our egos and fear and embrace “whosoever will” be a part of our life in Christ. That’s what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. With the growth of so many who are “unchurched” in America, we have to wonder why they are opting out of church worship. Perhaps they haven’t found what they were looking for. There may be people like this right around your parish. Would it be helpful to you if you had a teaching tool to introduce them to the Orthodox Faith? Help me build this tool by going to JourneytoFullness.com!