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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

They Marveled

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. ...And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” (John 4:9, 27 NKJV)

Have you ever wanted to add a footnote to “Love your neighbor as yourself”?

Yes, of course we are to love others, but:

  • If they’ve formerly cheated on a spouse, they only get partial love and zero trust.
  • If they’re mean to you, God has clearly called a different Christian to love them.
  • If they’ve verbally attacked your family, it’s OK to get a little personal payback. 
  • If they’ve disagreed with you on a theological belief, you don’t have to do ministry together.
  • If their political view is xxxxx, you can smile in church, but go ahead and invest in someone else for fellowship.

John tells us a story of Jesus making a point to travel through Samaria (John 4:3-42). Back then Jews generally had no dealings with Samaritans. Some despised the Samaritans even more than Gentiles, as they were considered half-breeds and practitioners of a perversion of the true Jewish faith.

It’s here Jesus meets a woman gathering water while his disciples are off getting food. Women would typically gather water in the morning when it was cool. This woman had come at noon, alone. We don’t know a lot about her, but we find out she had gone through five husbands and the man she was currently with was not her husband. Is this why she chose to avoid gathering water in the morning? To endure the gaze of the hot sun rather than the gaze of the other women? Perhaps. 

Jesus starts a conversation. If passing through Samaria wasn’t bad enough, now Jesus is alone with a less than reputable Samaritan woman drinking from her cup at a public well. Not the best image for a Jewish Rabbi.

The woman marvels: “Why would this Jewish man approach a Samaritan woman like me in the heat of the day?”

The disciples return and marvel: “Why would the master approach a Samaritan woman like that at any time of day?”

Though culturally and religiously in opposition, both groups are in agreement here. “Jesus is not behaving the way we expect religious Jews to behave.”

Loving others was not a new concept for the disciples. They would have known the scripture: 

“...you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18a.

Yet the way Jesus loved revealed their (and perhaps sometimes our own) shallow view on what it looks like to love others.

Jesus shows us a love that is not convenient. He shows us a love that is extended without expectation of reciprocation. Jesus shows us a love that intentionally seeks out those who society—and sometimes religion— have deemed unlovable.

And we marvel. We marvel because it’s a love not of this world. It’s unnatural, undeserved, and often unrequited.

But this is what separates Christian love from the love of the world:

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. Luke 6:32-33 NKJV

There will be moments in our lives when we have the opportunity to love sacrificially: to approach the person nobody else will approach, to return compassion for hatred, to give with no thought of return. Today and every day, let us be on the lookout for such opportunities. They may first appear as problems, obstacles, or inconveniences. But it is this type of love that will cause the world to marvel and acknowledge the work of God in our lives.

Copyright © 2020 Jonathan Santiago, used with permission.

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