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Breaking the Barrier


Jesus was a revolutionary. He was that because he didn’t let the world’s view influence what he should do. Instead he was motivated by His Father to be who he needed to be.

A classic example of that is found in John 4, the story of the woman at the well. The story begins with Jesus and his disciples travelling through Samaria on his way to Galilee from Judea. Before I finish the story some background information is in order.

Jews didn’t like Gentiles much, but they especially didn’t like Samaritans. The reason for this is they were part Jew, part Gentile. (A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew). Several hundred years earlier when Assyria was a world power, they conquered this part of Israel. As a way of keeping their conquered territories under control, the Assyrians would intermingle different nations. This way when the two different nations would intermarry, the people didn’t have any real identity and therefore would less likely rebel.

As a result of this deep disgust, many Jews instead of taking a straight line from Judea to Galilee or vice versa avoided travelling through Samaria. Their approach was to go around and travel miles out of their way. So now back to our story.

Jesus is sitting by a well while his disciples go into a nearby village to buy food. A woman approaches to draw water. Jesus engages her in conversation, first about the water, but then expands his discussion to talk about deep spiritual issues. He eventually reveals things about this woman having five husbands and currently living with a man who wasn’t her husband.

She comes to the realization that Jesus must be the Messiah. The woman then runs back to tell everyone in the village, where no doubt she was an outcast, about her amazing discovery.

By now the disciples had returned and noticed this conversation between their master and the woman and obviously were shocked. Here is why on three accounts.

First for a man to engage a woman one on one in public was considered improper. Then secondly, for a righteous man to engage a sinful woman was considered scandalous. Finally, for a Jew to have any meaningful conversation with a Samaritan was almost criminal.

So Jesus didn’t let issues about gender, ethnicity, or sin stop him from seeing a human need and trying to minister to that need. Essentially he saw the person first and all these issues as secondary.

So what are the lessons taught from this story that we can learn to apply to our lives today. For openers do we see people first before anything else? If we came across someone who is an illegal alien, do we first see him/her as a person or as someone we need to report to the government? If we see a homeless individual, do we see them first as a person or are they someone we disgustingly think ought to get a job?

Secondly, if we interact with a person of a different ethnicity, social status, or political party, do we see them first as a person or as that someone who is so different that we can’t be around them?

God constantly challenges me to think and behave like He would in any situation. Our prejudices are real; our biases are ingrained because of our flesh nature.

So here is my challenge to all of us. Are we as followers of Christ people who will erect barriers or will we break barriers? Another way of saying this is something that has been asked for centuries: “What would Jesus do?”


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