People Not Like Us
Jul 15, 2013 1912
I am glad that I grew up in church. It was great as a kid in church. But now that I am an adult I wonder about some of the things I learnt. For example, I loved the song, “If you’re Happy and you Know it Clap Your Hands,” and then when I was older I was told that it was disrespectful to clap your hands in church.
One of the very first songs I learnt was “Jesus Loves the Little Ones Like Me.” The second verse goes “Jesus Loves the Little Ones Like You.” While this is very true, there is a very real sense in which we must understand that Jesus doesn’t just love people like us, but that He also loves people who are very much not like us.
That’s the whole lesson of the woman at the well that you find in John 4. Look at all the ways in which she wasn’t like “us.” In this story, Jesus stays behind to rest by the well while the disciples went to the Samaritan town to buy food – I bet that was the highlight of their day! And this woman comes along to the well. Now that is the first problem; she is the wrong gender. Men just didn’t talk in private to women to whom they were not related back then.
In John 4:9, we find out that this woman is of a different ethnicity to Jesus. Definitely not like us! In John 4:10–12 we find out that she had different traditions. Very different to us! Then in John 4:16–18 we find out that she has a very different lifestyle to “us.” At best she has some rather loose morals, and at worse she is a… well… you know… Not only that, but in John 4:19–20 she tells us that she belongs to a different church; although from what we have already learnt about her lifestyle, it is likely that she didn’t attend her local church regularly.
Yet Jesus has the most amazing conversation with this woman. He tells her the good news of the gospel (vv.13–14), and He reveals Himself clearly not just as the Messiah, but also as Jehovah God. (v.26) Jesus makes the most incredible revelation of who He and what He offers to this woman who was certainly not like Him! He never does this with such clarity for any of the people of his own church – the Jews!
And so the woman runs back to her town and tells everyone about Jesus, and how “He told me everything I’ve ever done (v.39).” The point here is that everyone in the town already probably knew everything she had ever done. And they judged her for it. But now Jesus has told her all, but without condemning her. And when the Samaritans have heard Jesus for themselves, they are able to declare, “This one is truly the savior of the world.” (v.41)
This story tells us about the beginnings of the Christian gospel in the world; this is the first time that the gospel went to the gentiles. It took some time and some hard lessons before the New Testament church learnt that God loves people not like us. Today, Christians need to stop talking to themselves so much, and start dialoguing with people who are not like us. Because when Jesus stretched out His arms to embrace the world in love at the cross, and when He cried out, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing!” he meant all of us.