Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Avoiding the People that Need the Gospel

Our Bible study last Sunday came from John's gospel. In the fourth chapter there is a story about an encounter that Jesus had with a woman at a well in Samaria. Traditionally, Jews would not have traveled through Samaria because the Samaritans were an unclean part of Israel's past.

Samaria was a part of The Northern Kingdom and during one of the conquests of the Old Testament, they were taken as captives and ended up intermarrying with their captors and became a mixed culture of Jews and gentiles. When Jesus and his disciples were making their way from Jerusalem to Galilee, the normal route would have taken them to the east side of the Jordan river near Jericho, then north through the cities of the Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee before crossing the Jordan westward to Galilee.

In today's world, adding 40-50 miles to a trip is an inconvenience. When you consider that Jesus and his disciples were walking, you're basically adding two days to a three day journey...and yet Jews would do this regularly to avoid the Samaritans. They would not use the same utensils that Samaritans had used nor anything that they had touched. They would treat them as they would the gentiles; as lower class citizens.

And yet, here we find Jesus in the middle of a Samaritan town, talking to a Samaritan woman (even lower than a Samaritan man!), asking for a drink from a Samaritan vessel and treating the Samaritan woman with compassion, offering her eternal life!

As I was preparing this lesson, I was struck by the thought that we (today's church) often go a great deal out of our way to avoid encounters with people that need to hear the truth of the gospel. And we often treat people that need the gospel as a lower class citizens, speaking to them in condescending tones and with judgment and disrespect. We often do what the Jews regularly did.

We need to do what Jesus did.
We need to see the spiritual needs of the people that we would rather avoid.
We need to stop going around them and take a direct route to where they are.
We need to talk to them with a heart full of compassion as our Savior did; as our Savior desires to do today--through us!

Maybe there are people that you have been avoiding. Maybe it's time to stop and ask the question --
What would Jesus do?
Are there people that you look down on? People that you have judged to be unworthy of your time and compassion?
What would Jesus do?

The woman told the townspeople that she believed that this man was the Messiah. They came to see for themselves and later proclaimed that they also believed--not because she had told them, but because they heard and believed for themselves. They believed because they had their own encounters with Jesus! We cannot make believers of others. We are only called to introduce them to Jesus so that they can have their own encounter with Him.

How about we learn from Jesus' example and just share God's plan of salvation with the people we encounter on our way?

Good stuff, eh?

John <><

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