Privilege and power show up in the story of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-37). Jesus is confronted by a Gentile, Greek-speaking woman. This nameless woman of another race is desperately in need of a miracle for her daughter. The woman grovels at Jesus’ feet, believing that he is the Messiah. Yet she is ignored. This Gospel story portrays a Jesus who is dismissive, dehumanizing and holding firm to his place of privilege. In her persistence, she says: “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). It is in a space of proximity where her voice, the voice of the oppressed, is heard. Jesus is confronted, challenged, and changed. Jesus had gender, race, and religious privilege. Jesus chose to use his power to see the woman’s faith, to challenge his beliefs and change his mind.
There is power in proximity. We must get close enough so that we can hear the other’s story, wrestle with our privilege, and act.
This message is excerpted from “Confronting our comfort” by Judith Roberts in the July/August 2017 Gather magazine. Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States.
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