“The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, ‘You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?’” — John 4:9 (NLT)
The 2014 NBA-champion San Antonio Spurs were an inspiration. The general manager scoured the globe to assemble an incredible mixture of international players, and coach Gregg Popovich molded a diverse group into a cohesive unit. Tim Duncan was from the Virgin Islands, Tony Parker was born in Belgium and raised in France, and Manu Ginobili was from Argentina.
What if all organizations, including churches, incorporated all kinds of people into their communities and network?
When Jesus came into the world, strong prejudices were common, but Jesus showed by His words and actions that all people are important. One of the greatest rivalries of His day was between the Jews and Samaritans, and this gave Jesus much to draw from as He taught.
The Samaritans became a known group of people when an Assyrian king placed men and women from other nations in Israel. “The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns” (2 Kings 17:24). As they settled, the people intermarried. The foreigners brought with them their pagan idols, and many Jews began to worship them alongside the God of Israel.
Both Jewish and Samaritan priests taught their people that it was sinful to have any contact with the other, and they fed their mutual hatred with insult and injury. Around the time of Jesus’ birth, a band of Samaritans profaned the temple in Jerusalem. We can all probably understand the anger and hate such acts would stir up.
Though many refused to travel through Samaria where a large group of people were blended from different backgrounds, Jesus intentionally went directly through Samaria to give hope to people different from Him. “So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria” (John 4:3-4). With the centuries of opposition between these groups, we can appreciate the surprise of the Samaritan woman (John 4:9, above) when Jesus disregarded the social and religious restrictions to personally bring hope and healing not just to her, but to many in her town (John 4:1-42).
The fact that there was such well-known dislike and hostility between Jews and Samaritans is also what gave the parable of the Good Samaritan such force (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan was able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices and show mercy and compassion for the injured Jew that even other Jewish people passed by.
Until we love the (metaphoric) Samaritan, we haven’t matured as a Christian. The Bible speaks about loving all people, and we should behave accordingly. The Gospel is not exclusive; it is for anyone who believes in Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
How do you use His love to overcome and rise above prejudice?
— Bill Kent, Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, Sylvania, Georgia
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