Children and Dogs

Have you noticed we have names for people we don’t like?

“They are just white trash.”  “Those liberals!”  “Those rag-heads are all out to get America.”  “Neo-cons just don’t care about anyone.”  “He is an Uncle Tom.”  “He is just hanging out with the brothers.”  “Dumb cracker.”  They are just a bunch of hay seeds.”

Religiously we have some of the same quick labels.  “Liberal,” “Once-Saved-Always Saved,” “Post-modern,” “Traditional,” “Sinners.”  We say them with all the same vigor that people talk about their hated neighbors.

In Jesus’ day, the Jews would point at a Gentile, make a face and spit out the word, “Dog.”  A racial slur.  A separation.  An ugly divide.  It said, “You are different from us, we are children, you are dogs.

It is hard to imagine any greater divide than the one between humanity and God.

God created us to be sons and daughters, but we told Him we didn’t want to be those children.  So we did everything we could think of to separate ourselves from the God who created us.  We became we and He.  We were separate.

Unwilling to abide our division, God became a man and dwelt among us as Emmanuel, God with us.  And through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection He was one of us.  He came to show us there is no we and He.

Jesus came to erase the division between people and God.  When Jesus erased the line between us and God, He erased the lines between people as well.  With His life, He said, “We are all in this together.” He erased the lines—all of them.

For Jesus, there are no children and dogs.  That is why when we look at Mark 7:24ff we are so perplexed.  Jesus says to the Syrophoenician woman who is asking for His help, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Some people make a big deal out of Jesus using a little kinder word for dog–a little dog.  It is like saying, “You are such a nice little n*****.”  It is still demeaning.  It is still offensive.  It is still a slur.  It is still us and them.

The woman makes a clever response, then Jesus says, “Because of your answer…” and heals her daughter.

The standard interpretation for this passage says the woman’s clever answer turns aside Jesus’ decision not to help her.  It is not satisfying to me.

Something else has to be happening here.  Jesus did not divide people into “Children” and “Dogs” so however we interpret this passage, it must be consistent with who Jesus is.


….and here is what happend with it – Children and Dogs.

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6 Responses to Children and Dogs

  1. Carol Samples says:

    “Little dog” sounds like a loved pet as opposed to using dog as a slur. Little dogs do not have a lot power, and the woman’s response was applicable to giving crumbs to a pet not a scurge.

  2. c says:

    I’ve always thought that the epithet was for the (over)hearers and not a reflection of his own state of mind. That it was adopted for the sake of illustration to point out to his followers the error of their prejudices in contrast to the previously-unsuspected scope of God’s loving mercy. (E.g. – ” even though these disciples of mine – and you, yourself – regard you as a lesser being, your Creator will be merciful to you.”) This occurred, of course, before events demonstrated the inexplicable extent of His mercy & love.

    • Derrick says:

      I completely agree. I think he is going for shock value to the disciples.

      I am guessing he winks at the woman to clue her in.

      • c says:

        Actually, her eyes were cast down at the time but she got it anyway. Smart folk those gentile women. (But I’m prejudiced – I was raised by a gentile woman, two gentile women if you count Barb.)

  3. VickiS says:

    i heard the reference the words “gentile dog” being spit from the mouth of jews forever in sermons when i was growing up. i made reference to that today and was promptly asked “just what is your source for that” … if all my resource books were not in storage, I’d find it and let him know (he has grown up in the baptist church, and is currently on staff in one … i was surprised by his skepticism of my remark).

    can you source your statement “In Jesus’ day, the Jews would point at a Gentile, make a face and spit out the word, ‘Dog.'” for me so that i can wipe that smirk off his face? he embarrassed me in front of a bunch of people … don’t like that! 🙁

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