We all know that there was a Jesus who was compassionate, and loving, and merciful; the Bible is full of hundreds of scriptures that speak of his patience and kindness. But was He also a rude racist?
“Certainly not!”, most people exclaim. But how can we square that answer with this scripture:
Matthew 15:21-22 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
Now if Jesus IS a merciful, loving, compassionate man, surely His heart would have ached for this woman’s suffering! And yet He callously replied… by ignoring her!
Verses 23-24 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
And despite His disciples’ urging, He flatly refused to help her! Just because she wasn’t of some “special race”, she wasn’t worth his time! What a bigot!
Verses 25-26 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
Even after she begged him, pleading in every way she knew, He flatly refused to lift a finger to help her – and to top it off, He ridiculed and insulted her by calling her a dog!
Verses 27-28 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
And finally, to stop her nagging, he at last condescended to help her. Is this truly a Jesus of “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” (Psalms 86:15)?
Arguments such as this are FAIR! This is what the Bible says, and it deserves an honest, SIMPLE answer! So I ask again… WAS Jesus a rude RACIST?
The most important rule of Bible study – the absolute first rule – is that the Bible MUST interpret itself. And it usually does this in the context of the verse that inspired the question in the first place, although occasionally verses from all over the Bible have to be referenced to draw a complete picture.
And in doing that, it must first be pointed out that Jesus was an equal-opportunity insulter – He frequently was, according to this definition, rude to the Pharisees and Jews. See Matthew 23, John 8, Mark 8:33, Matthew 8:22, among others. He was also an equal-opportunity ignorer, for He ignored requests by Israelites as well…
Luke 18:2-7 … There was in a city a judge, … And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
And there are many individual examples of God ignoring a prayer either until more prayers were made, or until some sin was removed. Each of these has a good reason behind it, but for now the point is merely that God did not single out certain races to ignore. Nor did He single out gentiles alone to be called dogs!
Philippians 3:2 (BBE) Be on the watch against dogs, against the workers of evil, against those of the circumcision:
For here He (through Paul) groups dogs, workers of evil, and the circumcision (that is, the Jews) together, as if one and the same. The reason being simply that dogs are used in the New Testament as symbols of the wicked. We find them among the incorrigible wicked who “love and make a lie” in Revelation 22:15, representing the once-saved church members who returned into the lusts and sins of the world in 2 Peter 2:22, and as rebellious, “comfortable Christians” in Matthew 7:6.
And so it was natural to call the rebellious Jews dogs, just as it was natural to call the entire unsaved world – which was almost all gentiles – dogs. For as it says“…the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:19). So to call her a dog was not so much an insult, as a statement of fact. A fact which she did not dispute!
Mark 7:28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.
Note that she agreed with Him! She accepted His statement without argument, BECAUSE His description fit! Because she DID live in wickedness! In Matthew 15:21 we see that He was in the region of Tyre and Sidon. These were cities of the Gentiles, and were known to be idolatrous. And idolatry is, of course, a major sin.
John 9:31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
If someone is sinning, God does not hear them when they ask Him for help. Right here, this gives us an excellent justification for Jesus not helping the idolatrous Canaanite woman, because the wicked (which includes the idolatrous) He doesn’t hear. This is why He at first ignored her.
However, although as a rule He is “far from the wicked” there are times where God can and does overlook a certain amount of wickedness – temporarily – if a person is sincere in what they believe.
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
This sincerity of belief is called faith. Paul classified himself in this class in his earlier life.
1 Timothy 1:13 (Weymouth) though I was previously a blasphemer and a persecutor and had been insolent in outrage. Yet mercy was shown me, BECAUSE I HAD ACTED IGNORANTLY, not having as yet believed;
It is possible, while firmly in the grasp of sin, to sincerely believe what you are doing to be the right thing – and honestly ignorant of the truth. God respects that, temporarily at least, and is able to look past your sins and, through your faith, show you mercy.
Along with faith, another thing God respects is humility, “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6). This woman expressed her humility when she accepted Christ calling her a dog, and was able to see the truth of it. And she responded, not with pride and an attitude of “How DARE you judge me!” as so many would today, but by acknowledging that yes, she was a dog; she was an idolater, she did not know God or obey him, and deserved this label; BUT! Despite all that, when she saw the truth, what little of it she saw, she BELIEVED on Jesus! And so in the end, Jesus ended up complementing her!
Matthew 15:28 “O woman,” replied Jesus, “great is your faith: be it done to you as you desire.” And from that moment her daughter was restored to health.
Jesus did not begrudgingly heal her to make her go away! He was HAPPY to heal her, ONCE she had given him a reason to do so! Her righteousness certainly wasn’t a reason. But because of her sincerity and her ignorance, God extended her grace and granted her request, because of the strength of her faith. And that faith allowed God to treat her AS IF she were righteous!
Galatians 3:6-7 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
And by believing God, she came under the blessings God had promised those who obeyed. You see, God never made promises with mankind to heal them. He never made promises with them to bless them. He never made contracts or agreements with them at all. They have no reason to expect anything from God!
But God DID make an agreement with Abraham. He did promise to bless him, and multiply his children and his wealth, and He promised him redemption through Christ. And so what good things the world has access to today, they have because of the faith of Abraham, who alone of all men ever to live was singled out for the title “the friend of God”. Those descendants of Abraham who inherited these promises – primarily Israel of which the Jews were but one tribe, the rest being scattered abroad – had the rights to these promises; because they were heirs to the inheritance of Abraham.
Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. …
Just as you don’t have the right to the inheritance of my grandfather, so also the gentiles had no right to the inheritance God promised for Abraham’s children. But God is, in fact, a loving God, who is “not willing that any should perish, BUT that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) And so He sent His Son to make that possible.
Galatians 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Note that it is Abraham’s blessing the gentiles were to receive! Not one of their own! God had made a contract with Abraham that He HAD to fulfill – but the gentiles had no such contract with God. But here Paul explains how God intended to allow the gentiles access to that inheritance through faith!
There are two types of “fathers”. Those we are born with and those we adopt. Some are our parents because they literally sired us – but may be totally unlike us in character. Others are like us in character, despite being unrelated. There are many examples in the world of people who hit it off so well with someone totally unrelated that they end up in their will. So also it is with God.
Abraham’s children, the Israelites, were seldom very obedient. Isaac and Jacob were good men, but after that righteous men became scarce. And so – in spite of His promises to Abraham – God was forced to correct them, again and again. Finally they flatly refused to obey him so He drove them out of their homeland altogether for a time, though not without first promising to bring them back one day.
And so with the coming of Jesus, God was preparing to offer the gospel to the gentiles. Not because they were the children of Abraham, but BECAUSE THEY HAD FAITH LIKE ABRAHAM!
Galatians 3:6-9 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
And as the figurative children of Abraham, they became heirs to the family estate.
Galatians 3:28-29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
But they had not yet been offered that promise, for Israel had not yet rejected God. God could not cut Israel out of the will, so to speak, until they had absolutely decided that they wanted nothing to do with Him.
Mark 7:27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children FIRST be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
And so He told the woman that he couldn’t go to the Gentiles YET – for the children (Israel) had to be filled FIRST. This woman agreed, but metaphorically pointed out that a crumb – I.E., Him granting her request since He was already here – wouldn’t hurt the children any. This reasoning, and the woman’s persistence so moved Christ that He gladly answered her request – in spite of everything else.
And so here is the irony of the question that started all this – was Christ a rude racist. Did He come to flaunt His superiority and the superiority of the children of Israel in the faces of the world?
Actually, exactly the opposite. The Jews of His day DID flaunt themselves as God’s gift to mankind – when in fact, they were often less obedient than the world around them. They WERE bigots, who had invented laws – similar to those we are familiar with as “segregation” – laws which God never spoke – that prevented them from eating with gentiles, or speaking with them as much as possible. They WERE racists, in every sense of the word!
But Christ came to BREAK their monopoly! He came to remove their “special status” that they thought they had, and prepare the way so that He could, through Paul, open up the gospel to all the world through faith, once Israel was finally “fed up” with God to the point that they killed His son!
Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]
And along the way, He frequently ate with harlots and sinners – to the horror of the Jews. He spoke with Samaritans – to the consternation of the Jews. But for all of that, His mission was to show the house of Israel their sins, and to offer them one last chance to repent before cutting them out of Abraham’s will. They killed him for His trouble.
Romans 15:9-12 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, WITH HIS PEOPLE. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
So was He a bigot? I will allow you to draw your own conclusion by asking you to answer this question; you’ve known many racists in your time, no doubt. Would someone who was prejudiced against a certain race cut his own children out of his will, and replace them with the children of the race against which he is prejudiced? Freely admitting that they were more righteous than his own sons?
Christ did that. And that is your answer.