John 4:1-26 NIV
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 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.) 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.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
These scripture verses always have a special meaning to me because of something that the Lord taught me many years ago. It isn’t just what you say, it’s also how you say it.
I was on a peace keeping mission with the United Nations in Cyprus. I lived with a group of 14 or so Canadian soldiers and had a unique opportunity to live my Christian faith amongst them and also talk with each of them about our Lord, as the opportunity presented itself. I was taught a good number of lessons but this portion of scripture always reminds me of one of my shortfalls.
A group of 5 or 6 of us were walking towards our camp and one of the guys mentioned that he was going into town that night and with any luck, would be spending some time with a “whiskey dolly”. I’m not sure where that specific term came from but I am sure you get the general drift.
Why I said, what I said, I have no idea but I knew he was married and I said to him, “I’m sure your wife would be thrilled for you.” He wasn’t impressed. He turned around and pointed his finger at my face and told me in no uncertain terms that what he did was his business and to keep my opinions to myself. As you can see, it was a short conversation.
I used to go for a long run in the evenings and I could say my prayers at the same time. As I was running and praying, the memory of what had transpired earlier that day came to my mind and I mentioned it in my prayers. As I recall I mentioned that the soldier was committing a sin and that he would obviously pay for his offence. I think in the back of my mind I was taken aback at his rebuttal and offended that he had done so. Please be mindful that I was a relatively young Christian at the time and had a lot to learn about how to witness to others. Anyway, after I had said what I wanted to say about the incident in my prayers, there was a period of silence. Then Jesus spoke to me. He said “What did you expect him to say?” I’ve only had our Lord speak to me a few times in my life. I know His voice, He’s never angry, He never wastes words. And what He says always goes right to the heart of the matter. I instantly knew what He meant. As I recall, the rest of my prayer focused on forgiveness.
Many times, how we articulate what we want to convey, determines how it will be received and most importantly, how it will be responded to. How Jesus addressed this Samaritan woman exemplifies the way in which Jesus dealt with sinners. True, in this case Jesus had knowledge that we aren’t necessarily privy to but it has to do with the attitude being displayed. He wasn’t confrontational, His demeanour to her was one of acceptance as a person. He gently directed the conversation in the direction He wanted it to go without offending her. Also notice that it was one on one. He did not embarrass her in front of others. And most importantly, when she voiced her knowledge of a coming Messiah, He let her know that He was the same.
I wish I could tell you that was the only occasion where my attitude needed adjusting but unfortunately that is not true. This is a hard lesson to learn. Our feelings can so easily take precedence over our initial intent, when we are rebuked. And it’s not just prevalent when we are witnessing to others, it is especially prevalent when we are rebuked by anyone, especially by those that we love. As to whether the rebuke is justified or not makes little difference, although if we deem the rebuke as unjustified, there is a tendency to see a quicker negative response.
Lesson to be learned: truthfully understand the intent, include ourselves under the same vulnerability before articulating the offence to someone else, speak in gentle terms, never respond in anger if rebuked. Put a separation of time in the equation of responding when rebuked, if that is feasible and if anger or resentment is present, understand that prayer is an absolute necessity before proceeding. No buts …
Have I mastered this lesson? Nope, even after all of these years, it can still crop up. The frequency of incidents is definitely far less but every once in a while….. I’m really not that keen over the human condition.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!