June 7th 2009

No Room For Bias

“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.)  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.)  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 4:7-10 (NIV UK)

In first-century Judea, Jews and Samaritans simply didn’t get along.
The trouble went way back some five centuries or so earlier, to the days of the Jewish leader Zerubbabel.  The story is recorded in the Old Testament book of Ezra.
Some Samaritans had offered to help the Jews rebuild their temple, and Zerubbabel rebuffed them.  The Samaritans responded by complaining to the king of Persia, and the temple work stopped.  Later, when the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the governor of Samaria threatened to take military action against them.
Eventually, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, and in 128 B.C., the Jews destroyed it.  Although their religions were both based on the Law of Moses, Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies.

But Jesus who came to love and save all humanity was not shackled by the bitterness of the past.  Although most Jews avoided Samaria, Jesus walked right into it, taking his disciples with him.

Once, while he was traveling in Samaria, he was tired, so he sat down at a well near the city of Sychar, and sent his disciples into town to buy some groceries.  Along came a Samaritan woman, and Jesus talked to her.  The woman was surprised that a Jewish man would talk to a Samaritan.  And his disciples were surprised that he would talk to a woman.

In this story above from the book of John Jesus models a simple way of dealing with people who have different religious beliefs, people who are from a different ethnic group, people who are traditional enemies.  Just treat them like normal human beings.  Show them dignity and respect.  Don’t ignore them, don’t avoid them, and don’t insult them.

Jesus had plenty to say to this woman, and she never would have listened if he’d treated her the customary way Jewish men treated Samaritan women.  Jesus, of course, had something a lot better than water for her, if she wanted it.  In effect, he was saying, “I am willing to shed traditional religious restrictions to ask you for a drink of water — are you willing to shed traditional religious restrictions to ask me for something that’s better?” .

She was willing, and she got the message.  She left her water jar behind and went to tell everyone about Jesus.  “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, He told me everything I ever did.  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.  They said to the woman, We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world”. (John 4:39-42).
What a powerful testimony!

Jesus refused to allow his outgoing inclusive love to be bound by cultural, religious or racial biases, and when we allow him to live his life in us, there’s no limit to how far the good news of God’s gracious love can spread.

Great Father in heaven, help me to understand the biases within me and don’t let them get in the way of my relationship with others as I seek to spread the good news about Jesus.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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