“Jews Don’t Associate with Samaritans”

Pull quote:

“The more we are led by the Spirit, the more we will yearn for saving fellowship across worldly lines.”

The church will not grow in a Bible way until we love and reach out to people across cultural lines. There are no lines today greater than the lines Jesus crossed when he sat by a well and led a Samaritan woman to a saving faith (John 4). We cannot learn evangelism from a better teacher than Jesus.

“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked not only because he was thirsty, but to breach a barrier and open conversation which could lead to teaching her about God.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus’ request really got her attention because it was not considered proper for a Jew to ask anything from a Samaritan, nor for a man to speak to a strange woman (see 4:27).

She went on, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” This can also be translated, “Jews do not use dishes Samaritans have used.” The woman could instantly see that here was a man who was different, who was not controlled by the worldly prejudices that perpetuate so much hatred and division in the world.

The fallen, fleshly nature divides people. The Spirit unites. Jesus was led by the Spirit. The more we are led by the Spirit, the more we will yearn for saving fellowship across worldly lines.

There are Christians and congregations today whose racial and cultural attitudes show that they are not controlled by the love of God that is in Christ. God will judge us for these things, and the more so when they hinder the gospel and ministry to people’s lives. It is not wrong to have cultural preferences, but it is wrong to mistreat or devalue anyone because of a racial, cultural or social difference. We need to repent.

One of the greatest secrets of Jesus’ power to reach and change people was the way he valued each person. People immediately knew they were important to him. He communicated the love of God in everything he did and said. God loves the unworthy (that’s all of us) and values each one.

Do people get that message from us when they drop into our services? God keeps testing us when he sends us someone who is racially different, wears an earring or tatoo, smells of poverty, is socially, mentally or physically handicapped, has the wrong religion, or whose life is in a mess (read James 2:1-13).

This Samaritan woman had been rejected by five husbands and was now living immorally with a man. She could not have had any self-esteem left. She, like many women, may never have been acquainted with a man who treated her with love and respect. When Jesus talked with her, a woman, as a person, and when he requested water from her just as he would from a Jew, this woman knew that Jesus was a person apart.

When you react to people, does God’s love make you also a person apart? Can you look past externals to the things that matter? Most of us in today’s church will be polite to problem people who visit, but politeness won’t do it. People who need Christ must sense that we value them as Christ does. Real godly love melts barriers and opens the way for spiritual change.

We learn six important things from Jesus’ John 4 example of personal evangelism:

He was sensitive to the needs of others.
He was always ready (1 Peter 2:15).
He was bold to speak of spiritual things.
He started talking where people’s concerns were, and led them from there to talk about greater needs.
He saw redemptive potential in every contact with people.
He was willing to cross cultural lines.
After Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman, a wonderful thing happened which shows the power of the gospel. She went back to her village and called people to come see Jesus. They came and were as impressed as she had been. They asked Jesus to stay a while with them. They had forgotten that he was a Jew!

—B. Shelburne, from SHBI’s course Life of Christ 1