In John chapter 4, Jesus is having a conversation in a place no religious person should have been, with a person no good Jewish Rabbi (a Rabbi is a teacher, and that is how the populace of the day saw Him) should have been with.
The setting is noon and Jesus stopped by a well to rest while his followers had gone into town to buy lunch. While He is sitting by the well, a woman comes to draw water.
The thing is, that was not to be expected in Middle Eastern culture. Women drew water in the cool of the day — morning and evening — not in the heat of the day. But this woman had a bad reputation, in and out of five marriages, and now she was in a friends-with-benefits relationship.
Jesus knows all of this but the most holy, most righteous, most perfect person who ever lived never confronts her on this, never condemns her. He doesn’t say, “You need to get out of that sinful relationship, little missy!” He doesn’t say, “You need to go home and make that right — marry the man.” He doesn’t counsel her to go back to her last husband.
He simply recognizes the situation for what it is, and says nothing more about it. You and I would go crazy with that, wouldn’t we? Be honest, a lot of you feel like it would be your duty to confront and condemn this relationship, but Jesus doesn’t.
So why is it that so often His followers today feel compelled to make sure people understand where we stand on their personal issues? Maybe we do it because it is so much easier to deal in rules and regulations and acceptable “Christian” standards than to extend love and mercy and grace to people.
The type of love Jesus demonstrates and tells His followers to emulate can be messy at times and because of that, many times we find it so much more comfortable to confront and drive people away rather than conversing and inviting them in.
We in the church seemed to have forgotten the fact that “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV). So how is it that the church is more often seen as a condemning agency rather than a rescuing agency?
Billy Phenix, lead pastor of Buckhead Church, reminds us, “A good church catches the fallen and carries the burdensome.”
What do you think would happen if all of us stopped trying to confront people and started having real and open conversations with them? How much easier do you think your personal witness might become if you relaxed and stopped trying to do the convicting work of the Holy Spirit?
I think it would radically change how people perceive Christianity and I think that you would find a new openness in the people you are trying to reach.
John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.