I’m originally from Oklahoma. Now don’t stop reading there, just because you’re a die hard Texas fan! I love college football. And one of the greatest rivalries in college football is the Oklahoma/Texas Red River Rivalry. It turns neighbors against each other. Co-workers have cubicle battles. Even Grandmas withhold cookies from their grandkids who stand on the opposing side! It gets serious. I’m convinced that Texans traveling north during this battle week will even reroute to go around Oklahoma. There’s a sports hatred that rears its ugly head at this time.
In a similar, but much greater than sports hatred way, the Jews and Gentiles had a deep-seated issue and disdain for one another. In fact, they would go out of their way to avoid the other. So when I was reading in John 4 today, one passage jumped out to me. In John 4:4 it says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” If we try and resolve this as a simple geographical statement, I believe we miss the whole point. Jesus had to go through Samaria out of necessity to accomplish the mission. It’s such a simple statement made there, but it speaks volumes. We have the same opportunity, but our options are like night and day. We can either live our lives on purpose and with a real, daily sense of mission where our mentality is “I have to go.” Or we can live with a sense of avoidance, caution, and disobedience. Maybe that last one seems a little harsh. Is it though? James 4:17 says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
So what’s the mission then? Jesus told us to go tell everyone about Him and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). It didn’t seem like an option. He didn’t state it as merely a good idea for a select few. We’re also reminded in Romans 10:14, “How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them.”
So believers, what direction are we going? Are we going towards the mission, or are we rerouting around it? Are we engaging the hurting, the broken, the lost, the unchurched, the de-churched, the difficult, the ones who are not like us? Are we intentionally seeking to interact with people who society (and even the church) is avoiding like the plague? Why would I even propose such an idea? Because that’s exactly the approach that Jesus took when He walked on this Earth. When I read about how He sought out the outcasts and was willing to be seen with the “sinners”, I am simultaneously encouraged and convicted. That’s what we should be about! We should go to the broken and needy. Who are we to hold back the saving, transforming life that comes through Jesus? But at the same time I am convicted, because I know I don’t always model this.
So what happened after Jesus moved towards the mess and ended up speaking to a woman that society screamed to avoid? Well, long story short, she met the Messiah, believed in Him, and spread the word. I probably should have put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence so we have the right response to that. She believed and then told others, who in turn believed! Jesus’ own disciples were even confused by why He would even associate with such a woman. I love Jesus’ response to them and even us today. “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
Jesus had to go through Samaria. His life was not merely lived in a “come what may” or carefree manner. It was intentional. But it was molded around the will of the Father and spreading the gospel. So when we’re presented with the option to walk into the darkness with the purpose of turning on the light, or going around it, what ultimately drives our decision? And what opportunity might we be missing by our avoidance and unhealthy relationship with comfort?