James 2:1-10, 14-17/ Psalm 37/ Mark 7:24-37
Don’t We Deserve Justice?
Do the Right Thing Movie
In 1989, Spike Lee made the movie Do the Right Thing that proved him to be one of the greatest movie directors of our time. This movie explores the race relation in a New York City neighborhood in which the black members of the community end of rioting after being continually treated like less than human. The unbearable heat of the summer in the movie is a perfect metaphor for the rising tension between the ethnic groups in the neighborhood and the growing frustration of the black characters.
Syrophoenician Woman and Jesus
When I was reading today’s gospel story, I was filled with the frustration that comes with the experience of being marginalized, and this movie came into my thoughts. I could feel the Syrophoenician woman’s frustration and trauma of being marginalized and dehumanized.
In this story, Jesus sends her the message that she is a second-class citizen for not being Jewish. Being compared to the dog was an insult back then as it is today. Her response to this insult may seem like a humble begging, but I can tell you as a member of a marginal social group, that it is not. It is more of an act of defiance and resistance than a humble begging.
In the manner of a humble beggar, she is claiming her self-worth and dignity. If the dogs under the table deserve to be fed like the humans sitting at the table, how much more deserving of God’s grace are the Gentiles that the Jews look down on?
We should see this woman claiming her dignity. She knows that she and her daughter deserve God’s grace. And at the declaration of her self-worth, Jesus heals her daughter. What we encounter in this story is a woman who is defiant in claiming her worth and a man humble enough to let his prejudice be challenged.
Faith Without Action
As we learn from James chapter 2, faith is nothing without action. Faith is not complete unless the believer proves it with their words, attitudes, and actions. If we believe in something, we should do our best to live by it.
In teaching the lesson about faith and action, the author of James mentions the act of discrimination as an example of what God’s people should not do. Jesus’ people discriminated against Gentiles. In our society, white people discriminate against people of colour, which is what the black characters in the movie Do the Right Thing experience daily. This is what people of colour, especially our black siblings, still experience daily.
We often hear news stories about black Americans being killed by the police, especially the innocent ones, while white terrorists are treated with civility under police custody. That is why there is the Black Lives Matter movement; not because black lives matter more than nonblack lives, but because black people have not been treated with respect and dignity.
Don’t We All Deserve Justice?
It is still Black History Month, so we read our scriptures through the perspectives of our black siblings. And we ask ourselves the question, “Don’t we all deserve justice?” Don’t we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity?
As members of marginalized groups, we should be defiant like the Syrophoenician woman in declaring our worth. On the other hand, as members of privileged groups, we should constantly challenge ourselves to treat others with respect and dignity, which Jesus did in the end of today’s gospel story.
God’s Way of Love and Justice
Let us learn from today’s psalm about how we should live as God’s people. Let us commit ourselves to God’s way of love and justice. Let us not be discouraged when we see evil people prospering. Let us just trust God and diligently do good. Let us declare our dignity and worthiness while seeing others, all God’s people, with the same loving eyes with which God sees us.