Many years ago I was doing the closing wrap-up at my ladies Bible study group on John 4, which talks about Jesus and His divine appointment with a Samaritan woman. This woman was shunned even by her own people.
For those of you not very familiar with the Samaritans, let’s just say they were not on Jewish people’s “most loved list.” In fact, the Jews did not associate with them at all (John 4:9), often going well out of their way to avoid the territory if they were traveling throughout the land. They were hated because they had turned away from God, and fallen into idolatry (2 Kings 17:24-41).
Yet here was Jesus – now taking His disciples right through the heart of Samaria – because there was a Samaritan woman with whom He needed to talk (John 4:4).
So anyway, for my Bible study wrap-up I was telling a fictional story about how in modern times, rather than wandering through a desert to find this woman, Jesus may well have had to enter into a sleazy dirty bar where the woman in need is sitting alone, drinking to dull her senses. She’s trying to take away – for even a moment – her feelings of low self worth.
You see, even her neighbors shun her, because she’s made a lot of really bad lifestyle choices.
But here comes Jesus inside the bar. He sits down beside her, and begins to talk to her, telling her that she is, indeed, a beautiful treasured woman loved by God; and that there is hope everlasting just waiting for her if she repents from her sins and acknowledges that she wants to turn her life over to Jesus Christ.
I finished my story to the women’s group by telling them that some day God might choose for them a gal to befriend which might end up taking them into a similar setting. Would they go – even if it was uncomfortable?
There was silence for a few moments as the gals contemplated what had been said, but then one of the ladies spoke up and said we need to be careful if we ever did that – because what if another Christian spotted us going into the bar? Especially if they were a new Christian, that could weaken their faith.
Good perspective, to be sure… God warns us to not be a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8:9) to others.
That evening I was a little discouraged – had I taught the gals something contrary to Scripture?
However I was greatly encouraged when a couple weeks later a pastor shared a story during his sermon of a stripper who had come to know the Lord. Evidently someone had invited her to church and she went. She ended up getting saved and invited about 20 of her stripper friends to see her baptism!
The pastor ended his sermon by telling us in no uncertain terms that just as Jesus was willing to go out of His way to Samaria to speak to an unloved woman, so must we be willing to reach out to those that He puts upon our hearts.
Interestingly enough, this also goes back to our special needs son. It always warms my heart when I see someone going out of their way to approach and engage him in conversation. Why? Because a lot of people – including Christians – just don’t do it. They’ll do a round-about circle going in a totally different direction just so they won’t have to come face-to-face with someone they feel uncomfortable around. Oh to remember that God has created all of us unique and special (Psalm 139:13-16)!
But you know, I used to be like that too. I still remember walking through the downtown Seattle streets years ago when I was on my lunch break, doing whatever I could to not be in a position where I needed to pass by someone that I perceived was “not normal.”
Two nights ago my husband Gary and I were privileged to help out at a special needs prom that was held in our church. These kids aren’t invited to the regular proms, and it breaks my heart.
To see them laughing, dancing and just goofing off in their nice clothes just fills me with such joy. No, we cannot preach the gospel to them, but we can show them Jesus’ love in other tangible ways.
We feed them and their families, take their prom pictures, and treat them as best we can in the hopes that somehow they will know that there is hope, even when the night seems black.
So who might our great God be prompting you to engage in a friendship? Are you up to the challenge – even if it takes you to a place where you might feel a little uneasy?