3 Aug 2016
You think you know somebody . . . and then they say something totally out of character. I mean, Jesus calling the Canaanite woman a “dog” certainly doesn’t match our image of him. Isn’t he supposed to be the one who welcomes everybody with open arms? You think you know somebody . . . Then again, maybe we don’t know him—entirely.
Of course, we’re looking at Jesus through the lens of “universalism:” everybody’s welcome with God; just come on by and he’ll let anybody in. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the phrase: “All are welcome.” That’s universalism in a nutshell—and it’s how we expect Jesus to behave. Of course, a lot of our expectation comes from Jesus’ own example. But, with the Canaanite woman, we see that something else is up.
It’s true that “All are welcome” with God. But there’s a catch to it; there’s a test of faith involved. And only those who have real faith in God will make it into the community of faith. God’s love is unconditional, as we know. But there is a condition on our end of the deal; people have to want God, and they have to have real faith in God.
And this is a part of Jesus’ ministry and teaching we tend to overlook (because it sounds unwelcoming): the idea that there is a hoop to jump through to receive God’s love. But the hoop is simply to have faith in Jesus—not so much on the lips, but in the heart. That’s the test: to make sure one’s faith is real. And Jesus is the one who puts people to the test—not to exclude anyone, but to make sure we really want what he has to offer.
And this is a fuller image of Jesus. Jesus welcomes everyone, but he also tests everyone. He has expectations of his followers—the most basic is that we have real faith in him.