Through my work as a writer and my job as assistant to a Member of Parliament, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know people vastly unlike myself. Some come from places I’ve never visited. Most have different backgrounds and experiences. Many have different faiths and different perspectives on life. None of us look alike.
No matter our differences, I’ve learned we have more similarities, especially this: God created every human being in his image. Equally loved, and intrinsically valued.
The lady left her house to pick up something essential. Water. She chose a time when few others would be out, no doubt hoping to avoid people she knew scorned her for who she was and how she lived. And there, beside the well, she met a man.
She knew he’d find her inferior. He came from a region that despised hers. She was a woman in a rabidly patriarchal society, and a fallen woman at that. Married and divorced five times, currently living with a sixth man.
Truth be told, she despised herself more than anyone; felt worth less than the sand beneath her feet. Suitable only for serving and meeting men’s physical needs.
Bracing herself for slurs and lewd glances, she ignored the fellow; acted indifferent and began filling her water jugs. But he seemed to see through her and engaged her in conversation. As they talked, a pinprick of light burst through her hurt and cynicism. Unlike other men in that area so plagued with racial strife, he acted as though he saw her as both valued and valuable. His words and presence watered the parched interior of her soul. The woman from Samaria left their conversation transformed. Unburdened from years of guilt and blame, she became a beacon, pointing others to the Messiah.
Transformed. Many people who meet Jesus still describe their encounter that way. He was, is, after all, the Messiah. Saviour. Light and Hope of the world. And as her Creator God, in flesh, Jesus saw the Samaritan woman as a beloved, priceless daughter.
Three times in scripture, Jesus indicated he found something worthy in Samaria, a hotbed of racial discrimination. The story of the Good Samaritan reminded prejudiced listeners that good can dwell in even those we despise, and when he spoke of sharing the gospel with the world, he specifically named Samaria.
Sadly, historically and presently, many who call themselves Christians don’t have Christ’s view of others. Accepting people different than us? Making room for them? Refusing preferential treatment based on cherished biases? Those things are difficult. They make us uncomfortable.
I’ve fought prejudicial attitudes in myself. Long-held, inherited cultural perceptions are immensely difficult to change. Lord, I’ve prayed often, shine a light on my heart and show me the areas that need reexamining. Because following Christ means adopting his view of the world, a view that, as the Samaritan woman experienced, still transforms individuals and communities from the inside out.
The message of Christianity remains both relevant and essential. In a racially charged social climate Jesus Christ is still the answer.
(If you haven’t yet watched the first season of The Chosen, you’ve missed one of the best portrayals of Jesus’ life on earth ever created. They’re free here on YouTube, and on the app, if you choose to download it. ) The season ends with the scene I describe in this column. At this writing, Season Two is in production.)