"But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your what; the demon has left your daughter." - Mark 7:24-30
It's interesting how being labelled something by others can be interpreted in different ways with various connotations. If I were to tell one of my male friends, "You're my dog," he would take that as a term of endearment, a sign of our friendship and mutual loyalty. It definitely would not fly with my fiancee. If a woman calls a man a dog, it's probably because he's got a reputation for carousing and chasing after any woman that gives him attention. And then there's a whole other term for dogs of a particular gender that people use negatively that I won't even mention.
When you consider the context and time of Jesus' day, dogs weren't the lovable creatures that we let lick our faces and shed fur on our carpets. They were generally viewed in a negative light. Paul refers to Judaizers in Phil. 3:2 as "dogs, mutilators of the flesh," while Rev. 22:15 places dogs outside the City of God with "sorcerers and the sexually immoral and the murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." (Maybe all dogs don't go to heaven after all?) So for Jesus to look this woman in the eye and infer that not only her, but her daughter and all who shared her ethnicity were dogs had to have been insulting, shocking, and discomforting.
There's always limits to what we'll be willing to do for certain things in life. I recently came back from bachelor party and had an awesome time playing golf, eating decadent food, and hanging out with old buddies. However, all the fun in mid-90 degree weather led to dehydration and exhaustion where on the last day, I woke up physically ill with a fever and various other problems that don't need to be described here. Was it a fun bachelor party? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. There's only so much abuse we're willing to take in order to receive or enjoy something.
Every time I read this passage, I'm amazed at how quickly the Syrophoenician gets past the insult. In some sense, she's willing to accept it. She'll be whatever Jesus calls her. Because at the end of the day, she knows only Jesus can save her daughter. This is further emphasized by the fact that all she asks is for Jesus to say the word. No request to come with her back to her house to see her daughter. She didn't ask for a lock of Jesus' hair or for Him to bless some water she could sprinkle on her child. Just say the word.
Her faith leads her to a self-forgetfulness. Her desire for her daughter to be saved and healed by the only man who can do it allows her to be whatever it is that people will curse her as. She will suffer the slings and arrows if it means the safety and salvation of her own child. It is a faith that is to be commended and appreciated. A big faith that believed in a big Jesus, that made no demands or placed expectations but simply cried out for help in her desperate and broken situation.
We should celebrate faith that focuses less on saving our own faces and reputations and looks and leans on the one we place our faith in. The church has been seduced and abandoned by many who pledged to follow Jesus until they decided He was leading them too far and things were getting too hard. Spiritual nourishment isn't always found from being seated at the head eating the choicest of fare. The reality is we learn the most when we're ground bound, on our knees, eating whatever falls to the floor.