outcast. ashamed. hidden. alone. undesirable.
For a lot of reasons, I think the story of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus in John 4 is absolutely beautiful. One main reason is Jesus was going through Samaria, when ‘normal’ folks went around region containing the outsiders, their enemies. The other reason is…by ‘normal’ cultural standards, he never should have been talking to her, she was a woman…he was a man, and that was an intense boundary never to be crossed. And there he was…asking her to give him a drink. Whoa! Scandal!
This says so much about Jesus. Truly.
Then…ah, then…you have the phenomenal water conversation that follows…
“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14)
Here’s the deal. Not only is Jesus talking to a woman he shouldn’t have been talking to…he is giving her hope…life…renewal…cleansing…acceptance…
This woman is an outcast in her community. How do we know? She is at the well in the heat of the day, and she’s the only one there. Going to get water was a social activity, and she was obviously avoiding it. Read more, and you find she’s had multiple husbands…not abnormal by our cultural standards, yet scandalous then. But the part I want to focus on is her aloneness, and her apparent status as an outcast in that community. There were no other women with her…not necessarily the safest way to get water, but she had no choice…
She was an outcast. She made people uncomfortable. She was ashamed. She was undesirable to those around her.
Surely…surely, there are not places in our town where people go at certain times of the day to avoid people who would judge them as outcasts. Right?
Wrong. Yesterday, I was in the grocery store at a time that I wouldn’t normally be there in the morning. There were a lot of employees stocking shelves…and there were a lot of people shopping that could fall into a category where people would choose to ignore, avoid, disrespect and treat them cruelly.
As I walked the aisles…seeing shopper, after shopper…it dawned on me. At this time of the day, in this grocery store…it is exactly like the woman going to the well in the heat of the day.
If we are going to truly work to align our hearts with God, and take scripture seriously…we need to start thinking about the places that we go where God is calling us to be compassionate, hospitable, and honestly, be Jesus for someone. Everyone deserves respect. Everyone deserves love and to be in relationships with others. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be offered the living water that Jesus offered the Samarian woman. But how often are we really willing to point to it?