A couple of Sundays ago, the Gospel Reading was a familiar one about The Samaritan Woman also known as The Woman at the Well, John 4:5-42. If you are like me, you may have decided this woman was one of ‘ill repute’ which made her different and put her into a mental-box reserved for ‘different’ individuals. I have always felt Jesus was the one with a message, but was that the only message in this passage? Upon further thought I decided the Woman needed a bit more of my thought and attention, maybe she had a message for me.
Jesus should never have talked to a lone woman, let alone take a drink from her jar; both actions were very much against Jewish law. She wasn’t polite in her response, sarcastic is a word we could use to describe how she spoke to Jesus. He did not lose patience with her but sat and listened, something she was not accustomed to since being a Samaritan and a woman put her on a low rung of society.
This Biblical scenario called to mind an incident in my life when my husband and I were traveling and stopped in a small Colorado town. After dinner, we were enjoying a drink in the lounge of our hotel. Gathered there were a group of men who would have fit the description of ‘men of ill repute’. One of the men seated close to us was using vulgar language. My husband gently touched him on the arm and said, ’I just want to ask you to please watch your language, my wife is here and she is a lady. I appreciate your assistance.” The young man thanked my husband for being courteous to him and apologized to me. He went on to say that he had been in a gang but was now back with his family who valued respect. A few minutes later another man used the same vulgar language. The first young man got up and asked him not to use that language, consequently, that man got up, came over, and apologized to me.
As Jesus had done, my husband offered the young man compassion and acceptance. Compassion and acceptance is what we all desire and when the Samaritan Woman was given that by Jesus, she became one of his first evangelizers, spreading the word about Jesus and making many converts among those to whom she witnessed about her experience. The message from Jesus is how we are to act, he is our role model. But Jesus uses all kinds of ways to teach us the lessons we need to learn.
Our experience in Colorado, was a ‘Samaritan Woman” experience. In reaching out to this young man who felt discriminated against we have no idea where the message has gone. It might not have changed society but it seemed to make a difference in that encounter and to that young man.
The Woman at the Well helped me to understand that all of us have room to change and just maybe listening to another with compassion and acceptance, no matter what social strata we put them in, is God’s way of using that person to teach a valuable lesson.
Merciful God, I want to accept the ‘different’ people of my day.
May the choices I make be ones filled with love and kindheartedness.