Racism, Truth and The Samaritian Woman

As missionaries, we view the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John Chapter 4 as a wisdom treasure trove and a template for ministry and missions especially within the context of racial prejudice.

As is the case with pretty much every ethnic conflict, 1st century Samaritans and Jews were diametrically opposed to each other on the basis of race and heritage. The Samaritans lived by Jacob’s well and believed they were God’s righteous people. The Jews in Jerusalem believed the exact opposite. The Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim. The Jews worshiped on Mount Moriah.

Both groups were focused on the fleshy constructs in the name of the kingdom.

Samaria was regarded by the Jews as a racial no go zone kind of like the old “wrong side of the tracks” or “skid row” in the US. In fact, Jews would walk several extra miles around Samaria when journeying between Judea and Galilee just to avoid walking through it.

John 4 says Jesus “needed to go through Samaria.”

Upon arrival, He encountered a disenfranchised adulterous woman at the community well and asked her for a drink. Community wells were a focal point for village social life among women. The same practice can be seen throughout the third world today. That the Samaritan woman was there alone in the heat of the day is an indication of just how ostracized and shame-based she must have been. Not only did Jesus violate the rule that Jews did not talk to Samaritans. But Jewish men, and especially Rabbis did not talk to women at all let alone known serial adulteresses. While both the woman and the disciples were incredulous that Jesus would even acknowledge her presence, He turned around and drank Samaritan water from a Samaritan cup. Anyone involved in third world missions will be familiar with the thoughts that run through one’s mind when handed a cup of potentially bacteria-ridden water to drink. It always comes down to a question of personal well being versus honoring your host.

Honor is the foundational key to opening doors in missions and reconciliation.

Racism, be it rooted in ideas of racial supremacy, purity, or systemic power, is anti-relational at its core in that it denies an individual or group their inherent, God-given dignity in order to dominate them. That Critical Race Theorists and Social Justice Warriors do so for the sake of achieving dominance over those whom they regard as abusively dominant still qualifies as racism. As in the case of any sin, the devil doesn’t care if one is obsessed with continuing to sin or obsessed with not doing it. He just needs sin, not God to be the main focus.

The same applies to the sin of racism.

Jesus repeatedly ignored man’s interpretations of identity, value, culture, and morality. He never debated because He knew what was in man, namely a constant vying for personal prosperity, privilege, and power. Neither did He debate the devil when he tried to tempt Him with power and privilege. That’s not just white people. That’s all people and is a result of the Fall. Sometimes he exposed and firmly rebuked those like Peter, who should have known better than to judge according to the standards of fallen man. More often He simply short-circuited false and or disingenuous arguments with parables and scripture then left people alone to wrestle with the truth before God.

The story of the Samaritan woman is poignant in regard to race and racism because Jesus modeled the correct approach. He honored her in spite of her sin and in the presence of those who normally would not have. He didn’t embark on a long diatribe about inequity or misogyny. He did not engage in a long philosophical and historic apologetic analysis of systemic issues. Neither did He ignore the woman’s sin. He called it out in a very matter of fact way and then directed her attention to Himself.

The end result was a flipped script among everyone present and the transformation of a shame-based and marginalized woman into the first recorded evangelist in the Gospel.

There are so very many lessons and prophetic implications contained within this story. The moral as it relates to racism is that racism is best countered by ignoring all its fleshy social constructs and short-circuiting it with honor in the presence of others. Healing comes with an intense focus on Truth. Jesus was clear.

True worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:24

Flesh based socially constructed racism is not possible within that context.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1

Think about it.

Cool Kids and Skids

The Absurdity of Snobbery

I grew up in a very old town with even older money. While my family was not poor, neither did we qualify to be part of the local country club elite and I was always very aware of being looked down upon by wealthier children. In fact, there were just two classes of kids in our school, “cool kids” and “skids”. I was never sure if “skid” referred to skid row or “skid mark” but I knew it wasn’t good.

I became an official skid at 14 when my family fell apart and I ended up living on my own. My newfound status was made abundantly clear when I found myself no longer welcome at the homes of many of my friends. Some parents were afraid I’d become a bad influence on their children. Others were simply dumbfounded and overwhelmed by not knowing how to respond. The same fear driven, paralysis manifests everyday all over the world as people pass by the nameless and forgotten on park benches,sidewalks and the sides of roads. You know what I am talking about. The image of that one person you passed by when Holy Spirit said to stop is still etched in your mind.

I might be a missionary but I’ve done it myself.

When the snobs of Jesus’s day questioned Him regarding His association with potentially bad influences like tax collectors and sinners in Luke 5:27-32. Jesus replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Over and over we see Jesus bucking the false social constructs of race and class. The story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 shows the incredulity of both the Samaritan woman and the disciples regarding Jesus’s rejection of society’s expectations. “How is it that you being a Jew ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink?” Normally Jews would not even walk through Samaria let alone talk to someone who lived there.

Yet Jesus drinks from a Samaritan cup.

Here in Honduras, the wealthy upper crust in our village would not even qualify as the lower class in the US. A lot of people would simply assume they were criminals if they saw them wandering on a US city street. Even so, we encounter the same old spirit of snobbery made even more absurd by the poverty in which it exists. In the US you hear stereotypical warnings like “be careful, they’re “from the wrong side of tracks”. In our village, we hear, “be careful, they’re from the “wrong side of the bridge”. “Don’t go there,” they say. Why not? “They’re bad people.”

So we went.

It seems that no matter where we go we find modern-day Samaritans.

Yesterday one of the young local Samaritans to whom we minister visited us and parked his mule by our house. Our neighbor had a fit. “Who does she think she is?!” “It isn’t even her property!” I said.

“Wait a minute. Is she being a snob?”

That’s when I remembered how much I had hated the rich people in my town. Those girls who looked down their noses and sneered in disdain as if to say, “don’t even think about it scum!” Those boys who snickered as if to say “You’ll never measure up! You’ll never make the grade!” If it were today I might be in the streets protesting their privilege fueled by my own never-ending projections of “as if to say”.

My problem wasn’t them. My problem was me.

Every bit of conflict in our society today is the result of the same stupid albeit ever-expanding social constructs upon which people justify taking offense. I despise the ideas of those Marxists protesting in the streets. But if I am honest before God and take the plank out of my own eye, when I look at the people in groups like ANTIFA all I can say is

“There but for the grace of God go I.”

We have witnessed the consequences of this same Mat 7:3-5 dynamic among all kinds of people from those in the US to remote Teramanani and Huaorani tribes in the Amazon and South Sudanese people in the Rhino Refugee camp in Africa. People have been beheaded in a village where we served in Mozambique. We have seen violence in Honduras. We will see it here again. We are seeing it in the streets all over the world today. Those whose identities are informed by social constructs rather than God inevitably come to the same end of a pointed finger; destruction and bloodshed in the name of a socially constructed false concept of righteousness.

There is nothing new under the sun. Apart from Christ, the sins of one generation continue through the next three or four and even seven until all involved are stripped of everything but the inescapable FILTHY RAG reality of Isaiah 64:6-7 and Rom 3:10-18.

No One is righteous. Not one!

But that’s the red pill that fewer and fewer are willing to actually swallow let alone preach. Hence Jesus said “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.Mat 7:13-14

Every last one of us is born into a proverbial crash at sea and everyone is drowning. Jesus is the one and only life raft. He has space enough for everyone. John 3:16 But we have to repent Acts 3:19 and embrace the ministry of reconciliation that He has provided. 2 Cor 5:16-19 That said, He only responds within the context of the recognition of our own spiritual bankruptcy. A drowning man who doesn’t know he is drowning must first be convinced. A drowning man who refuses to a knowledge he is drowning can not be saved at all. Yet if we throw our hands up in surrender He always responds. He responds because of who He is and in spite of who we are. This is paradoxical to the natural mind. It requires humility to accept it. Understanding comes later. In any case it is through humility, and brokenness, not status or class that we find freedom, true life, and purpose.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2:8-10

Ironically as much as we like to read ourselves and others into various parables and verses, those whom Jesus called “sick” do not represent any particular group, ethnicity, or class. At the end of the day, “Sick” could be a cool kid pointing a finger at a skid or a skid pointing a finger at a cool kid. While many remain consumed with the perpetration of a fraudulent worldly facade,

this life is a vapor. James 4:14

There are no cool kids on a death bed, only drowning skids who need to be saved and those who already have the revelation of the Imago Dei.

There are no skids in Jesus only kids made eternally cool. Col 2:8-10