Reflections on the Lectionary: Matthew 15:22-33: Staying Afloat
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflections on the Lectionary: Matthew 15:22-33: Staying Afloat

This passage relates the story in which Peter walks on the water until he becomes afraid and starts to sink. Jesus saves Peter and declares, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” A literal reading of this account reveals, I think, a straightforward message: Jesus protects those who have faith in him. Not everyone finds this account satisfactory, however.
There are many people who have experienced great tragedies despite having had devout faith. To suggest that their faith must not have been strong enough is cruel, because it blames them for their misfortune; and it is self-serving, because it gives a sense of security to onlookers who (I think falsely) believe that their greater faith protects them. Further, the notion that Jesus protects those who have faith seems unfair to those who are incapable of faith, including young children and nonhuman beings; and to those who have little or no opportunity for Christian faith, such as those raised in non-Christian households.
I suggest that faith is not an insurance policy, but rather a worldview that can (among many things) help us survive during difficult times. Despite the apparent randomness and insensitivity of the universe, it is possible to believe that a creative God wants beings to flourish. This belief can give direction and purpose to our lives and help us withstand, as Shakespeare put it, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” However, in times of crisis, it is possible for even the most devout people to have their faith shaken. This is one reason that Christianity is a communal faith and not just an individual creed. We need communities to remind us that there is love and support in the world, particularly when the entire world seems dark and life seems pointless.
 It is tempting to sink into despair when we see so much suffering in the world. Jesus taught that, with faith, we can stay afloat.

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