In studying the biblical account of “the woman at the well” in Samaria, we must begin with an understanding that there was a great deal of dissension, distrust, and disdain between the Jews and the Samaritans during first century Judea.
Centuries earlier, when the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel was in Samaria, Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom and thousands of Israelite captives were carried away into Assyria. Afterwards, foreigners (who were gentiles) were sent into their land for maintaining control and oversight of the area around Samaria.
As these foreigners settled in, there were intermarriages between the Israelites who remained in the land and those gentile invaders. This resulted in a mixed bloodline and their descendants later became known as “Samaritans.” There after, the land of Samaria became segregated from the land of Israel.
The Jews living in Israel held bitter hatred towards the Samaritans. They considered themselves superior to the Samaritans because of their “pure” Jewsish bloodline. Thus, they restrained themselves from interacting or even speaking with Samaritans.
Because of their animosity towards the Samaritans, Jews literally went out of their way to avoid contact with Samaritans. So much so, that when traveling between Judea and Galilee, it was customary to travel around Samaria—even though it was miles longer and took two extra days of walking!
Yet, while there was long-standing prejudice between the Jews and Samaritans, Jesus didn’t have such biases. “For God does not show favoritism” (Rom. 2:11). The Lord sees all people as precious, and worthy of giving His life so they may be saved and found righteous in Him.
So [Jesus] left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plat of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) (John 4:3-7)
The Bible says that Jesus “had to go through Samaria” (v. 4 italics added). The Jewish people typically traveled miles longer on a route that skirted Samaria. So, it was possible for Jesus to avoid Samaria. But, the Bible says that Jesus had to go through Samaria. The reason He “had” to go to Samaria was because that was the nature of His person and purpose. He had to go to Samaria to share the message of salvation with Samaritans. For He, “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Stopping at a well in Samaria, Jesus began a conversation with an adulterous, Samaritan woman. This stood in stark contrast to the Jewish culture and religious practices of that day.
For the typical Jewish man, his prejudices would’ve kept them from speaking to any Samaritan. And under “religious” protocol and pretentious practices, for appearances sake, it would’ve been unacceptable for a “devout” Jewish man to speak to this adulterous, vile sinner.
Prejudices and biases are common in culture today. And these things creep into individuals and congregations in many churches. There are many who are more concerned about their devout appearances than they are about lost people in this world who so desperately need to hear the message of the gospel.
But a prejudiced and haughty mindset will hinder spiritual growth and suppress evangelization. This is a heart problem that is rooted in arrogance. The heart of a man “is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
“Brothers and sister, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism” (James 2:1). A heart attune with Christ and humbled to His Lordship will overpower internal worldly prejudices. We can overcome biases if we allow ourselves to be filled with the love of Christ because the purity of Christ can root out impurities in our heart.
The Holy Spirit wants to grow us more into Christlikeness. He has the ability, the power, and the will to displace prejudices and fill us more with Christ’s love. The more we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us, the more He will remove and displace anything that is contrary to holiness.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) (John 4:9)
Even before Jesus said a word to this woman, He knew her background. He knew how many husbands she had before, and that she was then living with a man outside of marriage. Yet, He started the conversation not from a condescending or condemning approach, but rather through a request that would require interaction.
The Samaritan woman was shocked that this Jewish man would even speak to her, let along ask her to give Him a drink. Her expectations were conditioned by both her experiences and the culture.
Isn’t it shameful that a person would first expect to be received either in hatred or from an attitude of superiority by a stranger? Yet, that’s how this Samaritan woman expected to be confronted or snubbed by this unknown Jewish man.
Regrettably, that’s how many in the world expect to be confronted by Christians today. Some anticipate that Christians will approach or receive them in a confrontational and condemning manner; or that Christians will completely avoid and shun them. Shouldn’t it rather be that people expect to be received in the love of Christ by believers?
Yes, there will always be those who disdain and affront Christians. Partly, that comes from “blame shifting.” Those who dwell in the pleasure of their sin tend to avoid anything that may bring attention to their wayward lusts. For, “everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20).
Still, we as believers can be guilty of condescendingly looking down on those who are outside Christ when they are engulfed in a type of sin that we personally detest. But, lost people act like they’re lost because they are lost. A person can’t act any other way than who He is.
Jesus didn’t approach this woman as an adulterous woman, living in sin, and breaking the commandments of God. Rather, He approached her as a lost child in need of Savior.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
As Jesus did, we need to go out into the world with a heart to reach people for Christ. This ought to be done in love, not in a condescending manner. Condescension is an attitude stemming from a degree of contempt for the person.
Sharing Jesus ought to be done in humility, not in an air of superiority.
Don’t’ misunderstand this. In sharing Christ, we aren’t to suppress Scripture or conform to this world, as some have done to accommodate political correctness. We are never to give into the world and “water down” or compromise Christ’s message. That’s not love.
We aren’t to condone sin. Sin is sin, and without Christ, anyone who dies in their sin without Christ’s forgiveness, stands condemned in their sin. Salvation requires that a person repent of his sins and turn to Jesus, receiving Him as their personal Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you too will perish” (Luke 13:3).
It’s not loving to let someone “feel accepted” by Christ, who has never accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. “God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness'” (2 Tim. 2:19).
Yet, while we should have contempt for sin, we should never hold contempt for the person behind the sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
A person’s sin is only a byproduct of who they are without Christ. It is their salvation that we need to focus on. Even Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17-18).
Jesus is the Savior for all people. God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
In sharing Jesus with the world, we need to emulate the love of Christ. We should approach people in love and with a genuine burden for their salvation. In doing so, we need the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, revealing to us any ungodly attitudes, and rooting out of us our impure motions and motives. “Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind” (Ps. 26:2).
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