Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: The Gentile Woman
The church of the Lord extends all over the world. Wherever there are people who have any religion, and live a good life because they know that there is a God, and wish to do what is right in His sight, there is His church, be they Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, Hinduists, or gross idolaters. But among all these there are some who have the true religion, because they have the Word and understand it and live according to the true understanding of it. These, although they also may live scattered in many lands, together constitute what is called "the church specific." All others are called "Gentiles" or "heathen," and constitute, with "the church specific," "the church universal." Those who are in the church specific, are generally meant when "the church" is spoken of.
In ancient times those who were outside of the church were called "dogs," and the Lord when in the world used this language when speaking of them, as in our today's lesson.
The Lord was going into a country outside of the country of the Jewish Church, namely to Tyre and Sidon, so He went toward a land where lived people who were not of the church. One of them, a woman who was descended from the ancient Canaanites, a Gentile, cried to Him, telling of her poor daughter who was possessed of a demon. The Lord did not answer her, and when His disciples spoke to Him about her, He told them that He had come to teach those who were of the church. They needed Him more than did the people outside of the church.
If you will read the first part of the chapter, you will see that in the Jewish Church, the teachers and leaders had changed the Word of the Lord. They explained it to mean what it did not mean. They had "traditions" - explanations handed down from one generation to another, which misled people, and taught what was not true instead of what was true. It was therefore of the greatest importance that the Lord should help the people in the church; that He should teach them how to understand the Word aright. For the church where the Word is, is to the church universal, or to Gentiles, like the heart and lungs to the rest of the body. If the heart is diseased, the physician must first cure it, then it is easy to cure the rest of the body. So the Lord came to the heart and lungs of the church universal of that time. He came to the Jewish Church. "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." By restoring His church among His disciples, whom He instructed in the Truth of the Word, He could then through this new church help the Gentile world.
But although the Lord had apparently paid no attention to the woman, and had told the disciples why He did not, yet she came and fell down before Him, and said piteously, "Lord, help me!"
Again the Lord told her that it would not do to cease teaching and curing the people of the church in order to teach and cure the people outside of the church. He called the people of the church "children," and those outside the church "dogs." "It is not meet to take the children's bread, to cast it to dogs." She understood this. She was willing to recognize that she was not any better than a dog, and said, "and yet dogs eat the fragments that fall from their master's table." She was sure that the Lord Jesus Christ, who was doing so much for His children, for "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," had enough and to spare, so that the "dogs" could also have something.
It was not that the Lord meant to be unkind to her. But by His actions He tried her faith, to see whether she really and truly believed in Him, and then when she believed so earnestly, He healed her daughter.
He spoke in the way He did also in order that all men may understand the difference between the Church and those out of the church. The children of the church must first be fed, but those who are out of the church must not be neglected.
We are taught in H. 319, and in other books of the Writings, that good heathen go to heaven, but their heaven is distinct from the heaven of those who have been of the church. The Lord wishes all men to be in His church, but when we are in His church, as in the New Church which He has established at His Second Coming, we must be careful that we are truly of His church, by eating the bread which He gives us, and not cast it to the dogs. As we learn and study, and live according to the Doctrines, then we are better able to help others who are not of the New Church, and may be able to teach and lead them in also.