So I recently heard a message on Jesus and the Samaritan woman for possibly the hundredth time in my life. But this time, it was like I had never heard the clear, true message of true Christianity from John 4 before. Well, maybe I hadn’t.
It appears that there are about 6 types of Christians who must truly grieve the heart of Jesus, while also damaging His reputation:
1. The IN-YOUR-FACE guy (“You’re going to hell if you don’t repent!” He’s got bumper stickers all over his car shouting repentance and you’ll find him picketing gay pride events and abortion clinics.)
2. The GUILT-YOU-TO-CHURCH guy (“you need to be in church for your children’s sake.”)
3. The ARGUMENTATIVE guy. (He is driven to debate with you in order to prove to you that he is right. He uses Scripture and experience [and uses them well!] to show you the error of your ways. And mostly, to show you how right he is.)
4. The NOTCH-IN-HIS-BELT guy. (He is driven by an agenda. Wants to see sudden repentance so that a testimony can be built and you can be added to his list of conquests.)
5. The JESUS-SALESMAN guy. (He would see “leading a person to accept the Lord” on a first encounter as an expected course of “soul-winning”. Door-to-door knocking, street preaching, etc.)
6. The DON’T-WANT-TO-OFFEND-ANYONE guy. (This guy is almost as offensive as the 5 characters above.)
Rules of Engagement:
Taking a look at how Jesus communicated with the woman at the well in Samaria, it’s clear to see the perfect pattern of loving socialization we can learn from. (JOHN 4)
He was deliberate. He took advantage of divine appointment. He looked at the encounter with this woman as no mere happenstance but as an organic encounter. An opportunity to establish a relationship ON PURPOSE. He was real. There is a fine line between and organic encounter and an arranged agenda (being able to mark a project [or person] off your list).
Friendship first. Jesus didn’t confront her. He built a relationship with her. (He asked for a drink.) Gentleness is the opposite of abuse, ostracism, isolation, judgment… which is the style of today’s fundamentalist movement. This is too common. This judgment is not the real Jesus. But another Jesus.
To have a spiritual conversation with someone, I need to EARN the right. We need to understand that what can take a lifetime to make may only take a moment to break. Many of us were brought up with the motivation to grab people’s attention with a good object lesson and then ask them to repeat the sinner’s prayer. This is an all-too-common misunderstanding of the discipleship process. In most cases, the person who prays “the sinner’s prayer of repentance” in a one-time conversation is going to experience “buyers remorse”. Much like buying those cool knives that was demonstrated to cut through a penny. “Why do I need 30 knives anyway?... I’m not going to be cutting through any pennies!... Why did I just spend all that money on cutlery?!... I’m not REALLY interested in that kind of commitment!... It just seemed so cool at the time!” The emotional crave for Jesus will be gone in no time. A true bridge to God through Jesus was not really cultivated. That broken relationship was never truly and genuinely restored.
Making spiritual assessments. Trying to figure out where someone is. This is not judgment but an assessment (discerning) of where the person is on their spiritual journey. Are they seeking? Or think they are indifferent? (We must remember that indifference is still an actual part of some individual’s spiritual journey) Or maybe they are just figuring out what a relationship with God is going to take. A spiritual assessment will help as we come to understand what barriers might be keeping them from proceeding forward toward living missionally. (Examples of barriers: painful church experiences, addictions, lack of knowledge of our sinful nature or even lack of understanding God’s loving forgiveness,…)
Practice the process. Know that a relationship with Jesus is not a one-time decision, but it’s about their process. Their growth toward the end of their spiritual journey. Recognize it’s not a notch in your belt.
A key to this whole thing seems to be I Corinthians 3:1-8.We need to wrap our minds around the fact that we are simply God’s hands and feet. We are not the sinner’s savior. God doesn’t NEED us to save the world. We are the body of Christ given an opportunity to take part in loving people toward Him.
I wonder if there were God-believers in Jesus’ day who thought He wasn’t critical enough. He wasn’t judgmental enough. He didn’t scorn the sinner enough. Jesus rubbed elbows with people who lived unrighteous rather than “kicking them out of the family” or “removing them from communication”. Yes, I think there were those groups of people in that day. If I remember my Bible history accurately, these people were called Pharisees. I don’t know… just my thoughts. A little glimpse of the view from my personal little, finger-print covered window.