Words are kind of like toothpaste. Once they come out of your mouth you can’t take them back, just like once the toothpaste is out of the tube you can’t put it back in. No matter what you do you can’t get this toothpaste back in the tube. That is what Jesus is telling his disciples, what you say and do is more important than just following the rules like the Pharisees were teaching. You can follow all the rules and still let mean things come out of your mouth and heart to other people. When that happens, you need to try and fix it. You need to stop, listen carefully to what the other person is saying even if you don’t agree with them and try to see it from their point of view. Jesus not only tells his disciples this but shows them this with the Canaanite woman. This week, I want you to look for an opportunity when you don’t agree with a sibling, a parent, a cousin or friend. Instead of yelling, or walking away from them thinking you are right, I want you to carefully listen to them, show them kindness and be willing to consider their ideas. Even if you don’t agree, don’t let something leave your mouth that you can’t take back. Let’s pray.
Reflection: “What is coming out of your mouth?”
You ever have one of those moments when you wish you could hit rewind and take something back? Fix the mistakes or make it all go away? For many of us we have all been there in one way or another. We have slipped up made a mistake or done something we shouldn’t have – most of the time it is saying something we shouldn’t have.
Jesus is speaking to his disciples teaching them that even more importantly than all the dietary rules is where your heart is at. Do you love others? How do you show it? How do you speak and act? What comes out of your mouth is way more important than what you put into it when it comes to showing where God is in your life. By the way you act and interact, by the words you use and say you show what is in your heart. The disciples are aghast because the pharisees are very strict that all the rules must be kept to the letter to prove that you are doing it all right. We must all be right all the time.
The Pharisees were big proponents of having it all together all the time and making sure everything was done correctly, nothing was forgotten, and everyone had every i dotted and t crossed so to say. Jesus, was trying to remind the people it didn’t matter if all that happened and you still harbored hatred towards your neighbor, if you still talked about them behind their backs, or spread gossip…that was worse actually. You can have it all together on the technical stuff and still have hatred in your heart, still treat people terribly, still be missing where God is leading you.
It seems so funny then to go right form that story to a situation in which Jesus is then in a space where he is insulting a Canaanite woman and calling her a dog – which for the Jews were not household pets. Refusing to listen to her at first until she was so annoying his disciples begged him to send her away just to get rid of her. Yet, I wonder if he was naming what was in the room. If he was simply speaking what they all thought. They had their own biases. She was a Canaanite and they didn’t think she should have part of this promise, despite the fact that Jesus had blessed several gentiles before this, but the Jews really didn’t like the Canaanites – they were the “bad” sort. She was a woman and held no power or authority, they didn’t have to listen to her, and she should know her place and shouldn’t be talking to them. We all operate with these unconscious biases. These “norms” that we grow up with in our culture and society, passed from one generation to another in small ways without ever realizing it. In the class I am co-teaching this September for INR that you can sign up for on the website we have a day on unconscious bias. It is fascinating. The disciples were operating under all of these too. They were annoyed, they didn’t want to deal with it and just wanted her to go away. Jesus simply voiced what every single person in the room was thinking….even after the lesson Jesus had just taught.
Yep it happens to the disciples too. We forget. We get distracted, it is hard to relearn, unlearn, and to think differently. Jesus calls the woman a dog, insults her. The same man that healed a Centurion’s servant (Roman officer) is giving a mom a hard time about wanting her little girl healed – really Jesus? Yet, after naming what everyone is thinking in the room, Jesus listens to the woman. He may want to dismiss her, or maybe he is just voicing everyone else wanting to dismiss her (will she know the difference?). Yet he listens. He takes the time to show the disciples how to live out the words he just taught them and what to do when living into those words is hard. What happens when you realize that what is coming out of your mouth may not be your best self, or where the Spirit is leading? Jesus shows us. He listens to the woman. He hears her argument, and engages and changes his mind healing her daughter. He shows flexibility, and compassion, and to the surprise of every disciple in the room the woman is not just dismissed, she is heard, her daughter is healed and they realized that perhaps what they were thinking needed to held up to a better mirror next time.
I have a love hate relationship with this text, I have to be honest. I love it because it shows me there is room for the messiness of my life, for when I get it wrong. That when my assumptions, when my mouth, when my best intentions run in the wrong direction, if I can slow it down and listen to those around me, especially those I don’t agree with I can hear the Spirit and get on track….but it also shows me that I am going to get off track, that I am going to be a hot mess sometimes and I am going to get it wrong when I think I am getting it right. That I am going to make assumptions about important things and be dead wrong and I really, really don’t like that. I think as humans we don’t like that kind of uncertainty at all and that is exactly why this story is here. Jesus humbled himself in human form – completely human so that we can see ourselves in all of our vulnerability and know he has gone before us, died and rose again so that we may have eternal life. He knows our temptations, our messiness, our yearnings, our failings, and our hearts. He also knows our great capacity for love and pulls us forward to fufill that.
So this week, when we feel ourselves headed in a direction of frustration, resentment or anger. Stop. Listen to someone carefully, fully and try to hear from their perspective. You may not agree, but try to understand. Are your assumptions getting in the way? Do you have any biases that are stepping in? Pray. How is the Holy Spirit asking you to respond in this moment? What is coming out of your mouth? Off of your keyboard? Through your screen? From your face?
Monday – Acts 10:1-7
Tuesday – Acts 10:8-23
Wednesday – Acts 10:24-48
Thursday – Romans 11:1-2, 29-32
Friday – Acts 8:26-40
Saturday – Genesis 45:1-15