My wife has often joked about me being her fourth child when I, uhm, enjoy life too much. I have to correct her, mildly of course, and remind her that I was with her before those other kids. I am her first child. Then we laugh. And yes, we have also joked about her leaving me without adult supervision. That joke seems to be a standard to use about husbands. I wonder why that is?
The truth is that our actions are affected by those who are around us. When no one’s watching us, we may be more willing to take risks, or even do things we shouldn’t do. There have been many experiments related to wallets left on the ground where people who are alone would keep the wallet while people in a group are more likely to seek to find the owner. Someone once said that ethics is what you do when no one else is watching. One day, His disciples left Jesus all by Himself. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” (John 4:7,9)
Ok, let’s begin with noticing that in this encounter, Jesus broke all kinds of rules! Earlier in the chapter it mentioned that Jesus had to go through Samaria. That may be theologically correct because He was supposed to meet this lady, but it was definitely incorrect from a logistics standpoint. No one is forced to go through Samaria. Then, Jesus talked with a woman. A Samaritan woman. Later we found out about the character of that woman. By the time Jesus finished asking this woman for a quick drink, He had violated 4 major rules. The last three happened when Jesus didn’t have any disciples around to tell Him that He was doing it wrong. Except, Jesus once again proved that people are more important than man-made rules. He talked to a hated Samaritan woman, who was probably a bit of an outcaste even in Samaria, and brought the good news of salvation to her.
When you know Jesus, this doesn’t seem like a shocking story. When set in the context of the time, it was a scandalous story. No good Jew would walk through Samaria. They would walk around it to avoid setting foot in the land that was once part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Samaritans were not pure-blooded Jews and the Jews ostracized them. Then, Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman. Jewish men did not talk with or acknowledge women back then, let alone a Samaritan woman. Yet, Jesus talked with her and carried on a dialogue with her as if she was worthy of respect. Oh, and the character of this woman? She not only couldn’t stay married to one man, having run through five husbands, she was living with another man outside of the bonds of marriage. Yet Jesus talked with her and mentioned that true worshipers would worship in Spirit and in Truth. Jesus didn’t exclude her from that list. The offer of a relationship with God was available, even in her sinful condition.
There’s a lesson to be learned here: we are to love everyone. It doesn’t matter if people are from hated groups, or hate groups – love them. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the wrong religion – love them. It doesn’t matter how sinful they are – love them. Jesus loved the people that others were more likely to judge, and He did it without reservation. Were we to follow Jesus, we would look for the most unlovable people around and share the love of Jesus with them.
Lord, you love the unlovables. You love the people we try to avoid. Give me the grace to love others the same way You love them.