Lent Day 9: Make Room for the Other
Matthew 15:28 ESV
28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
In this text we see the payoff of persistence for “the other.” The story of this text is based on a Canaanite women that came to Jesus for the healing of her daughter who is oppressed by a demon. If you are a parent, teacher, aunt or uncle, or you just love kids, you can image the anguish and pain this mother is going through. I remember taking my son to the hospital for stitches and holding his hand and wishing it were me on the table.
Jesus originally denies her request, but her persistence and faith in him calls him to respond to her request. Jesus tells her he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but her faith in him and her humble posture moves him to act on her behalf. He cares for “the other”, those considered on the outside of the inner circle. We too have been on the outside of the circle looking in, with respect to Jesus.
Ephesians 2:11-13 ESV
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
But Jesus has called all of us to embrace “the other” who are far away and brought near to him. Brueggemann reminds us that, “It is clear in these texts that the good news of God’s love and God’s healing and God’s justice cannot be kept just for us and people like us.”
It will be challenging to be inclusive of “the other”, but it is a risk that we have been called to take as followers of Christ. To embrace the unknown person, the person outside our social, cultural and even political circles. “But the pull of the largeness summons all of us, through the words and presence of “the other.” The following scriptures highlight the value of reaching outside of ourselves.
Luke 14:23 ESV
23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
Luke 19:10 ESV
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
John 20:21 ESV
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
1 Corinthians 9:21-23 ESV
21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
In “The Art of Neighboring”, by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon, they remind us of the following. “However, Jesus didn’t tell us to become acquaintances with our neighbors, he called us to love them and that means we need to have an actual relationship with them.”
They go on to write, “being a good neighbor simply means slowing down and being aware of what he is designing. By developing real relationships, you’ll find out how God is already moving in a person’s life.” “Remember, real relationships with our neighbors will happen as we have the ability to be present and connected to them. It is one thing to be home; it’s another thing to be present.”
Let’s consider a couple of the questions that Pathak and Runyon propose, as we consider “the others” in our lives. “Do I live at a pace that allows me to be available to those around me? And if not, are all of the things I’m doing more important than taking the Great Commandment literally?”
As we pray today with Brueggemann, let us emulate Jesus’ model of considering and intentionally engaging “the others” not yet in our lives, as we draw them into his inner circle and ours.
“Gathering God, draw us out beyond our cramped circles of care. Draw us toward the neighbor, the other, the outsider, the hurting one. May we practice compassion. Amen.”
Brueggemann, Walter. A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent. Kentucky: Westminster John Know Press, 2017.
Pathak, Jay and Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012.