Courage and Good Humor

A fine illustration of good humor is given in that story twice told in the New Testament of the woman of Canaan who sought healing for her daughter when Jesus visited the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. One account speaks of her as a Greek, a Syrophenician by birth; but the word Greek which may be translated "Gentile," might indeed be rendered "pagan," and from this epithet may be gathered the attitude of the orthodox Jew toward such a one. This woman was, however, so much in earnest that she was not discouraged by silence as the Master "answered her not a word." Jesus was evidently waiting to test her faith. At last his disciples became impatient because of her importunity, and came up to him saying, "Send her away; for she crieth after us." Evidently their expressions are not fully recorded, for they must have used an epithet usually applied to foreigners. Finally Jesus spoke to the woman as if to call her attention to the epithet which had probably been used, saying, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." Had the woman been less loving, less intent on her daughter's welfare, less courageous and kindly, she would have been offended and would have turned away indignant. But instead of giving up her plea, she was enabled through her courage to make the answer an opportunity for a tender and good humored appeal. She assented to the fact that it was not right to throw away the children's bread, but she reminded the Master of the fact that "the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs." She was speaking of the puppies, the playmates of the children, fed by their hands. It is as if she said, My appeal is not for myself, a foreigner, but just for a little child. How beautifully Jesus responded to her good humor and trust in good. "O woman," he said, "great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt," and so the little child became well, and her mother found her so when she returned to her house.

Courage has been cynically defined as "having done the thing before," as if one could face danger fearlessly because accustomed to it; but this definition is insufficient. Courage is as often shown by the weak and inexperienced made strong by love, as by the strong inured to danger. Its highest manifestation is in what is called moral courage, evidenced when a man stands for unpopular rectitude against his immoral and unmoral fellows, who either sin themselves or make compromises with sinners.

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