In my last post I cited an article that was printed in the Salt Lake City Tribune by a Gregory Clarke who wrote of all the awful examples of how to treat people that can be found in the Bible. I addressed some of the Old Testament examples in my last post.
Misunderstanding God’s actions in the Old Testament is a very old and prevalent problem. One heresy concluded that the God of the New Testament was our creator and the God of the Old Testament was a demigod. That, of course, is ignorant of the situations that brought about God’s wrath.
It is important to understand this before you go judging God’s actions. From God’s perspective, humans, even at our best, do not deserve nor have we earned a trouble free world. We rejected God, not the other way around. As such, God keeps a step back from keeping everything the way we would want it. The Bible calls that “the curse”. The result is sickness, aging and natural disaster. We ramp that up with our sins. Though warned against evil, we manage to do evil and make our world worse for ourselves. Don’t blame God for that. Add to our grief the real and active participation of Satan and his demons, and you have the mess we live in. The incidence of God bringing punishment is excessively rare compared to the factors above. But it does happen, and when it happens, somebody earned it.
That brings me to a story that makes it into Mr. Gregory’s article. It is the story of Jesus delaying “health care” to a child of a Canaanite woman. Here is Mr. Gregory’s snarky quote:
And when it comes to health care, New Testament Jesus also preached that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. He rejected the plea of a Canaanite mother to heal her daughter, dismissing her as a dog. It’s the Christlike thing to do. Granted, he ultimately relented — but only after the mother had professed her faith. That’s not welcoming children at the border, or being the first “to guarantee health care for the helpless.” Even the cruelest, most bigoted government health care policy doesn’t do that.
For some reason, I never thought of this story as being about health care. Probably because it is not. Jesus didn’t dispense medicine. His mission was not to remove health issues, though He did do that. Jesus came for the sole purpose of giving up himself so that the massive debt of sin wouldn’t send everybody to hell. His miracles of healing were done in mercy, but for the purpose of demonstrating that He was God in the flesh.
In this story, a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus in desperation. Her daughter is possessed. It is not a mental illness. Her daughter was most likely possessed because Canaanite people practiced the occult. Jesus didn’t owe her anything, but from the moment she arrived, He planned to help her because He is merciful. He says that He was sent only to the lost children of Israel and that it is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. The corruption of the Canaanites did make them culpable. Jesus uses this discourse to get her to the point where she is ready to leave her life on the dark side and believe in the Son of God, and receive forgiveness and eternal life. That gift was way more important that simply undoing her daughter’s possession. They got two very big gifts instead of one. That’s the Christlike thing to do. Neither were health care.