Most of us are familiar with the Biblical conflict that is associated between Samaria and Jerusalem, when the 12 tribes of Israel divided into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom of Israel, established its capital first at Shechem, a revered site in Jewish history, and later at the hilltop city of Samaria, where as the southern Nation of Israel (Judea) continued to worship at Jerusalem. Take the time to check this link for a more thorough history, it’s really important to understand the particulars associated with this disassociation that the Jews had with the Samaritans.
There are a number of modern parallels to the Jewish-Samaritan enmity—indeed, wherever peoples are divided by racial and ethnic barriers. Perhaps that’s why the Gospels and Acts provide so many instances of Samaritans coming into contact with the message of Jesus. It is not always the person from the radically different culture on the other side of the world that is hardest to love, but it can also be the nearby neighbour whose skin colour, language, rituals, values, ancestry, history, and customs are different from one’s own.
And yet, Jesus deliberately chose to use the Samaritans as an example when he gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 NIV). And we also are given the instance when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42 NIV). Take the time to read through this account of Jesus dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well, because it’s important to note specifically what He did say to her and what He didn’t say.
Also note that Jesus passed through Samaritan towns instead of crossing the Jordan to avoid them. When he spoke with the Samaritan woman, contrary to Jewish custom, he said a time would come when worshiping in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerazim would not be a reality but they that who desire to worship God would worship Him in spirit and in truth. When Jesus was asked whom to regard as a neighbor, Jesus told them the story of the Good Samaritan precisely because Samaritans were despised.
So what we have here is a situation where the Samaritans were basically following false practises or rituals of worship and sacrifices at a location that had not been ordained by God as the place in which to worship Him. And while Jesus did clarify to the Samaritan woman that God’s salvation came from the Jews, He quickly moved past that error that they followed and pointed towards that which was to come. He became the focal point, as the foretold Messiah, not the location.
The apostles also understood that within the Christian Church, Samaritans believers must not be despised and should be accepted as equals. Peter and John conducted a special mission to Samaria to confirm Samaritans who had already been baptized by Philip (Acts 8:14-17).
The salvation of the Samaritans was a central point between the preaching of the gospel to the Jews (Acts 2) and the preaching of the gospel to full-blooded Gentiles (Acts 10) and as such can serve to teach us some vital lessons on how to effectively and compassionately deal and interact with those whose beliefs and customs differ from our own.
Now it is true, that when some of the Samaritans became Christian believers, their whole landscape, with regard to what they had believed before, in essence was changed or re-aligned. And in spite of their previous errors, God confirmed their faith in Christ as valid by bestowing the promised Holy Spirit upon them. And I can’t help but think that there is a lesson here for the Church today. But defining what that lesson precisely is can be a little tricky.
Within the Christian Church, we encounter in God’s Word, the God directed requirements to judge (1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV), test the spirits (1 John 4:1 NIV), watch out for and defend against false doctrines and false teachers (Romans 16:17 NIV) and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15 NIV), all of which, is to be done in love (1 Corinthians 13 NIV). We are also instructed not to argue with new believers about things that can be disputed (Romans 14:1 NIV).
The difficulty or problem is, the minute someone makes a judgement against someone else within the church or calls out someone for false doctrine or as a false teacher, they themselves can be attacked for voicing their criticism. I am aware of the process that is to be followed when the situation permits a face to face discussion (Matthew 18:15-17 NIV). However, there are times, especially within the broad spectrum of our current communication capabilities, where this face to face process is not readily available and one has to resort to alternate methods such as documenting published quotes of doctrines that do not align with scripture. Some of Bill Johnson’s (Bethel Church in Redding, California) published doctrines would be a good case in point. If you are looking for particulars, the following link provides examples: https://bcooper.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/the-false-doctrines-of-bill-johnson/
I am acutely aware of the danger of becoming overly critical about every little deviation of interpretation of scripture. Words like “legalistic” or “nitpicking” come to mind. I am aware of the differences of opinion that exist about some specific schools of thought with topics such as creationism, free will, predestination, end times etc and I endeavour to accommodate alternate beliefs that can be substantiated from a scriptural perspective, even if they differ from my own interpretation of scripture. But when major doctrines of the Christian faith are distorted or challenged, it would seem logical to me that they be questioned.
And this is where the dilemma aspect of this post comes into play.
Clearly the Samaritans adhered to false doctrines and beliefs. Jesus actually pointed this out. But, He went beyond that error and focused the conversation on Himself and some of the Samaritans ended up believing in Him. They were subsequently baptized and on the follow-up ministry of Peter and John, received the Holy Spirit.
However, we are now under the great commission that Jesus gave us, and our salvation, like the Samaritans, depends totally on Him. Are false doctrines no longer to be questioned? Are false teachers no longer to be challenged? Is all judgement within the Church to cease? Are we no longer required to test all spirits? I can’t see anything in the New Testament that tells me that this is so. Yet there are many who advocate this very thing. Accent love and acceptance and downplay judgement within the Church. Don’t question the source as long as it correlates with the desired objective. As believers our sins have all been forgiven so no need to focus our attention on sin either. I just can’t buy that.
If someone does us wrong and they ask to be forgiven, we are to forgive.
If someone does us wrong, with no remorse, we are to forgive them, as we have been forgiven, pray for them and bless them.
We are to show mercy because we have been given mercy.
We are to show compassion because we have been given compassion.
I don’t see anything in the New Testament that says accept false doctrine.
I don’t see anything in the New Testament that says accept false teachers.
I don’t see anything in the New Testament that says accept a different gospel.
I don’t see anything in the New Testament that says accept all spirits.
I don’t see anything in the New Testament that says stop all judgement within the Church.
In fact, I see the very opposite. Yet, in all of this I do see that whatever we do, is to be done with love as the motivation behind what we do.
Sometimes we fail to remember that Jesus cleared the Temple of all that sold or bought.
Sometimes we fail to remember that Jesus called the Pharisees snakes and a brood of vipers.
Sometimes we fail to remember that Jesus would not compromise truth.
Sometimes we fail to remember that Jesus said He did not come to bring peace but a sword.
Sometimes we fail to remember that Jesus followed the Father’s will over His own.
Love for the Father was the motivation for all of these things that Jesus did.
When love is distorted, it ultimately detracts from our heavenly Father.
That’s what I see and God being my helper, that is what, with His grace, I will do.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!