Firmness and Flexibility

Mark 7:24-30 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. ‘‘First let the children eat all they want,’’ he told her, ‘‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’’ ‘‘Yes, Lord,’’ she replied, ‘‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’’ Then he told her, ‘‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’’ She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Are you able to say ‘‘no’’ to people? Jesus was. His main objective was not to be a ‘‘nice guy.’’ Here he initially denies the request of this woman because she was not an Israelite, and his personal ministry was directed exclusively to the ‘‘people of the covenant.’’ He wasn’t going to back down just because this woman might not be able to understand the big picture. He even refers to her people as the ‘‘dogs’’ of the children of God. That was a pretty strong ‘‘no!’’ Yet because of her determination, her humility and her faith, he is won over. He makes an exception because of her exceptional qualities. Some of us are unable to deny anybody anything. We want people to agree with our decisions and we want them to like us. We are too ready to compromise for no good reason. Others of us are too inflexible. We are unwilling to make any exceptions. Jesus had both the strength of character to deny someone a reasonable request and the flexibility to make an exception to his own rule. He was not afraid of people talking against him for ‘‘discriminating against an immigrant.’’ He also was not afraid to change his mind.

The world does not need any more ‘‘yes men’’ or ‘‘yes women.’’ Nice and easily swayed people don’t become movers and shakers. Not that we don't need to follow the advice of those more experienced or more successful than ourselves. We need wise counsel! But we must also think for ourselves and not succumb to the whims and fancies of everyone around us.

If we want to make a difference, we must be willing to disappoint some people. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to understand our other obligations, our agendas and our schedules. We need to take charge of our lives and hold to our convictions, yet not in a way that is inflexible.