• The Explore the Bible lesson for Sept. 29 focuses on John 4:1-15, 25-26.
When I was a youth pastor in another town, I distinctly remember having a conversation with a member of our church. He was trying to make the point that we should reach out as a church to a certain young couple. The phrase he used went something like, “They are our kind of people.” This comment immediately invoked a gut-level reaction within me. Who is “our kind of people”? What about those other people? Who is supposed to reach out to them?
People like us
Unfortunately, whether we will come right out and admit this or not, this idea is far too common in our churches today. Most of our churches are geared toward targeting a certain group of people. These would be people who look like us, are in a financial situation similar to ours or are in a similar station in life.
One would say that these are the people who are in our wheelhouse. These are the ones we can relate to the easiest and would therefore be the least challenging for us to try and reach as a church.
This again struck a chord with me recently because of some people who visited our church. Upon their arrival, my own kids came to me with their report. It seems that they knew some of the visitors from school. They began to share examples of the behavior these kids displayed while at school. So, this provided a teachable moment to explain an important principle to my kids. My dad is fond of saying, “A church is not a museum for saints; it is a hospital for sinners.” We exist as a church for the purpose of reaching out to the lost and dying world with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Our job is not to judge those in darkness, but simply to share the light as often as possible.
The example of Christ
If you look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ or even the early apostles, they did not get the privilege of reaching out only to people who were just like themselves. They reached out to the poor, the prisoners, the dirty, the down-and-out, and also to the wealthy, leaders in business and leaders in government. Regardless of their station in life, all these people shared the same need for a Savior.
Jesus went to Samaria intentionally. Jesus had to show his disciples that no matter what race, gender or other dividing issue came up, their love and message remained the same.
And, my oh my, did all of that happen in this one story. Jesus went through Samaria, and that alone would have been enough of a problem. That Jesus engaged a Samaritan in a conversation was more than enough. That this person Jesus was speaking with was a woman was beyond the line. And that she would have been known in her area as a “sinner” made this encounter between her and Jesus just that much more bizarre.
I believe we have to ask ourselves some very difficult questions today. Where is our own Samaria? Who is the person or group of people we seem least willing to reach? Is it because they are different from us? Is it because we do not spend that much time with these people anyway? Let’s not waste this important lesson from Jesus. He clearly went out of his way here to make a point. Actually, what Jesus did was go out of his way in order to give an example for all of us to follow.
Confirmed as Messiah
He shared great truth with this woman. He patiently listened to both her distracting comments as well as her legitimate concerns. He stayed focused on sharing the truth of eternal life. He stayed focused on sharing God’s love. What is interesting is Jesus went so far here as to confirm the fact he was the Messiah to this Samaritan woman. This was something he had not done up to this point in Scripture. In most places, when people started calling Jesus the Messiah, he took it as his cue to leave the area. But not here. He wanted her to know who he was.
Would you and I say we are more closely following the example of Jesus or that of Jonah? Again, Jesus’ approach was to go out of his way to reach a lost woman many people were trying to avoid. Jonah’s approach to was to go out of his way to get as far away as possible from those God wanted him to reach. Jesus engaged in meaningful conversation with the hope of someone accepting his invitation of eternal life. Jonah reluctantly presented what God gave him to share, with the hope the people would not receive the message.
Again, let’s agree to follow the example of Christ and the call of this week’s lesson: We will humbly go wherever, whenever, to whomever to share the good news of our Savior.