Monday, June 22, 2009

How does a Christian deal with Discrimination and Prejudice?

Read John 4: 27-45

While Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, the Disciples came back from their errands and they were shocked, but did not say a word. Jesus interacted with a race extremely hated and rejected by the Jews. This should cause us to think about our own cultural ideas and bigoted reactions, those we do either unconsciously or deliberately. This passage continues to tell of the social contempt that the Jews and Samaritans held for one another. Jesus exhibits the importance of acceptance and calls us to remove the prejudice and narrow-mindedness and intolerance we have, just as the Jews and Samaritans held for each other. And, in application, to remove all social dislike, scorn, and prejudices we harbor. Jesus looked at the barriers some had to growth and He confronted them so the person could move forward into spiritual maturity with faith and relationship development.

The point, to be a true follower of Christ, one must also be a disciple, a learner who can look at what hinders us, reach out to Christ, and grow beyond the barriers that block our spiritual formation and intimacy with Christ.

We have to understand Him and His teachings, be deeply convicted, and be willing to grow through our trust and obedient actions. If not, we will stagnate into apathy, disillusionment, depression, dysfunction, or some other kind of abuse to one’s self or others. We have to be convicted; Jesus shows us how by these examples, and He makes the Way for it!

The Disciple’s surprise continued, because single men in these Semitic cultures would court the women at the wells, so why was Jesus here and talking with her? Meaning an attitude of being astonished. How could Jesus do that? This can lead to an attitude of either contempt or respect. As the previous passage disclosed, Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Even though the Samaritans were still Jews and practicing their faith, they differed because they accepted only the five books of Moses, and they stirred and mingled in some idolatrous practices. The Jews had laws forbidding the association with Samaritans, including it was against the law to eat with them, and the Samaritans shunned the Jews. This animosity directed toward one another was centuries old, and they hated one another even more than they hated the Gentiles. This is why the Samaritan woman was so surprised when Jesus talked to her and was willing to take a drink from her too.

The well was as much a place for social gatherings as it was for gathering water for the village and families. In other words, it was also a date spot—and Jesus is there! The Disciples were perplexed; why would Jesus go to the hot dating spot of the time and associate with a woman known for a very bad reputation and the fact she was a Samaritan? It would be like a pastor today talking to a prostitute in public, with no ill intention other than to share the Lord, or a conservative Christian moving into a bad area to be a witness, or befriending a gay person or a white man joining a black church or visa versa; these are our Christian social ills today. We think only in our socioeconomic demographic area and befriend only whom we like; we then shun others who are not like us. Rather, we should hang with who Christ wants us to be with. Also, men did not talk to women unless it was one’s wife or mother, and even so never in public. A teacher would consider it a waste of time to talk to a woman. This was to avoid temptation and/or the attitude of male chauvinism. The Disciples had a lot to learn about racial and social barriers that Christ wanted them to overcome just as we need to do today (Gen. 1 Sam.

Jesus defied His cultural rules of segregation and related to those who were considered unworthy. This would have put Jesus at further odds with the establishment and would have angered the religious leaders. Like a white civil rights worker living in the US black south in the 1950’s and 60’s, or an Indian high cast person to choose to work with or for those of a lower caste, most church folks would not let such a person back in their church; how sad we do not learn.

1. What are some religious or racial or social issues with which you have had issues? What about now?

2. How does our intimacy with Christ gives us the confidence and completeness to know and do God’s Will, His purpose?

3. How ridiculous is prejudice ? How does it block the Gospel? How has God demonstrated His ultimate Love to you? How can you show this to others more?

Real spiritual sustenance, our real nourishment must come from above and from God’s call of faith and our obedience, not from our perceived needs, desires, or fears. However, this did not mean Jesus did not need to eat or perform essential human functions, since He was also fully human (Deut. 8:3; Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 2:1-3; Matt. 4:4; 6:25; John 6:32-40; 14:12; Eph. 5:17).

It is interesting that many opponents to the Scriptures, or a conservative view of the Bible, claim that the Bible is anti-Semitic (a view that the teachings of the Bible are hostile toward Jews and/or the Jewish faith) and racial. In fact, the Bible is clearly on the side of anti-discrimination and advocates the abolishment of prejudice in all of its forms. God sees no race; He only wants us to run the race of faith (2 Tim. 4:7).


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