She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27, NRSV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-47, NRSV)
Jack Lewis, the Balding Bible Study Dog (BBSD), has had reason to celebrate Christmas this year: First, since Terry has been home for a few days, the pack is together. Jack Lewis is a social dog and enjoys having as many of his peeps around him as possible. Second, my son, Chris, brought his dog, Asher, over on Christmas Day. The Balding Bible Study Dog enjoys wrestling with and chasing other dogs. Jack calmly watched Asher finish eating Jack’s food, just for the pleasure of a good romp afterwards. Furthermore, yesterday the neighbors’ dog got loose and came flying into our house, giving the BBSD the opportunity to happily chase the intruder around the house. Third, Jack Lewis received some personal grooming. Terry gave him a bath in the shower, while Jack happily danced around in the water; Jack loves water. And then, Terry took Jack to the vet where Jack Lewis had his nails clipped and received a required shot.
However, the most excitement for the Balding Bible Study Dog, was the realization that there was so much food in the house, and with guests coming over, there were multiple opportunities for a long tongue or a sudden lunge to score some food. (1) An intense, alert but patient stare was also found to be effective in motivating humans to give up some of their food. The Bible Study Dog’s studies this past week centered on the story of Jesus responding to the creative faith of a Canaanite (that is a Gentile, a non-Jew and an outsider) woman, by releasing her daughter from a tormenting demon (Matt. 15:21-28; parallel, Mk. 7:24-30). Jack’s memory verse was Matthew 15:27: “…even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” The BBSD energetically applied this verse all through the Christmas celebrations.
I read somewhere that among the kinds of predators, dogs are opportunistic predators. I also saw a nature show which speculated about how wolves evolved into dogs and how dogs and humans came to have a symbiotic relationship. The theory is that, however many thousand years ago, wolves began to follow the camps of hunter-gatherer humans, picking up bones and tidbits that the humans left behind. Eventually, people noticed this lupine behavior and gradually domesticated the wolves to use for help in hunting. Whatever. I like to think that God intended the canine-human relationship as a small taste of what our relationship with the rest of creation would have been like, if sin had not entered our world.
The Canaanite woman was desperate for help for her demon-tormented daughter. To the irritation of the disciples, the woman shouted, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” Jesus did not answer her at first. The disciples recommended sending her away. Finally Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” and “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” “Dogs” was a derogatory term for Gentiles, a racial slur, if you will. But the woman would not be denied. She answered, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” I think that Jesus was impressed with the woman’s logic, and of course, with her tenacity and faith, for he answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” The woman, an outsider, was brought into the influence of the kingdom of God and it’s blessings.
About twenty years ago, I would sometimes see a bumper sticker on a car that said, “S**t Happens”. We could say “Stuff Happens”, but that’s not what the bumper sticker said. The sentiment seemed to be that, whatever else happened, inconvenient, unpleasant, irritating, and even, bad events, are inevitable. As I drove around, I asked what my response could be. The thought came to me: “Grace Happens”. Not having the technology to make bumper stickers, I made cards on heavy card stock that said, “Grace Happens”, that I would give away as conversation starters. Often, people ask why bad things happen to good people or why we experience troubles that we don’t think we deserve. But the thought occurred to me that even non-Christians experience a lot of good that is undeserved. In theology, the good in human life given to those outside the Church, is sometimes called common grace. We should also ask the question, why do good things happen to bad people? Or why does our foolishness sometimes fail to catch up to us?
Around the time that I thought of the “Grace Happens” idea, I was driving around one weekend, somewhat preoccupied and absent-minded. I think that during that weekend, I inadvertently ran three stop signs and two red lights. I was not caught and no one was hurt. To cap off the weekend, after waiting for the light to change, and then beginning to accelerate, the second car in line (I was the third), suddenly stopped. I gave it a light tap on the bumper. We both pulled to the curb, after the intersection, to exchange information. A woman jumped out of her car and yelled, “What were you thinking!?” “I wasn’t.”, I admitted. The woman checked her bumper, and then said, “No harm done.” We left without exchanging information. Now wasn’t that a lot of undeserved good luck? Or grace? I assure you, I’m a much more careful and alert driver today!
Jesus taught us, in “the Sermon on the Mount” quoted above, that our Father “..makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45b and c, NRSV) In an agricultural economy, sun and rain are necessary and good. I am grateful for the “amazing grace” that we sing about, that “saved a wretch like me”. But I am also grateful for common grace that rules this created world in which we have been placed, so that we benefit in countless ways from the predictable course of a good, though damaged, creation.
Note that Jesus taught that we are to be like our heavenly Father, and also shower indiscriminate grace on people around us, to the point where we are to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, NRSV). “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” and “…if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?” (Matt. 5:46a and 47a, NRSV) Imitating your heavenly Father, may you go out today and commit unprovoked acts of kindness! And throughout this new year, may you remember that “grace happens”!
(1) I was distracted for a moment when Jack Lewis, that canine predator, pounced on, killed and ate a cricket.
This post was powered by the CD, “The Best Of The Lost Dogs” (1996) by The Lost Dogs, the CDs, “Luxury” (1999) and “Health and Sport” (2008) by Luxury, and the CD, “The Lumineers” (2012) by the Lumineers.