Racism and the Gospel at the Well
In John 4 we have the well known story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. Jesus sits down by a well around noon and then we read the following start to the discussion between Jesus and the woman: 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 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.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” There was great racial division between the Jews and the Samaritans. I don’t have the time to explain why in this post but there was a great divide. What struck me this morning is how this division influenced the woman’s answer. Instead of simply giving Jesus a drink, or saying she couldn’t do that, she brought up the racial division; and also the fact that she was a woman and he was a man. That seems to be the first thing that comes to her mind. But then notice Jesus’ response back to her. Jesus doesn’t try to explain to her that the division is wrong. He doesn’t go into the reasons why her words might have been hurtful. He simply offers her life…life through Him. Of course, she didn’t understand this right away but she understands before she leaves her encounter with Jesus.
I began to think about how powerful prejudice and racism is in our lives. For many, these feelings come first and foremost to their minds when they interact with others or watch videos of others interacting. This woman likely knew both racism and prejudice because of her marital situation, which by the way, might have been no fault of her own. What can we learn? I think we need to recognize the “power” of racism in our society and culture. Though I might not think I “go there” right away, others I speak with might go there quickly…and I should be aware of that. Also, the power of the gospel is the answer to all racism and prejudice. There is no room for this at the foot of the cross. All have sinned…regardless of race or social status. Jesus is sure to bring to this woman’s attention her greatest need. That’s a lesson I think we should learn as well.