Give me a drink of water
“Give me a drink of water.” That simple directive provides unexpected insight on how to bring unlikely groups of people together.
The fourth chapter of John’s gospel tells us about Jesus’ encounter with a woman at a well in Samaria. The request, “give me a drink of water,” gives us a helpful model for our initiating meaningful relationships. In this passage, Jesus was intentional and relational with her, despite the hatred between Jews and Samaritans. To the Jews, the Samaritans were considered ceremonially unclean and racially impure. The Samaritans were outcasts. They were to be avoided at all costs. So much so, that when Jews traveled to Galilee from Jerusalem, they wouldn’t take the direct route through Samaria. They’d take the long way around to avoid any possible contact with those despicable Samaritans!
Although there was an ancient feud between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus did not perpetuate the division. When He was taking the Jerusalem-to-Galilee trip, He took a direct route through Samaria. Jesus stopped at a well where he met a woman. He began a conversation with the woman. “Give me a drink of water,” he said.
Jesus’ first words were not… “There is something wrong with you, because you are a Samaritan,“ or even “I can help you.”
“Give me a drink of water.” He requested a drink from her bucket. That could be called scandalous! Well aware of the long-standing prejudices, the woman asked Jesus, “Why is it that you, being a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” We might fill in the answers: Jesus wanted her to know that she could be of help to him. Jesus demonstrated that she had something of value that she could share. Jesus affirmed her dignity. Jesus began to break down the wall of distrust between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. And, when Jesus met the woman at the well, he understood that her personal, felt need was water. Jesus then connected this immediate need to her deeper need for living water.
Jesus didn’t begin, “Repent, you’re a sinner.” Instead, he relationally shepherded her into uncovering her own long-term need. Jesus spoke directly and respectfully to a disreputable person that society had marginalized and pushed aside. With compassion and love, Jesus intentionally gained her trust.
Now, is that at all like our interactions (or non-interactions) with the marginalized in our community?
The model in John 4 is one we can apply as we build relationships in whatever context we find ourselves. We can follow Jesus’ example of engaging others, despite any age-old, historical divisions in our church or in our community. Let’s not skip over the crucial step of building trust, which is done in a posture of humility. It’s done by being quick to listen, rather than speak, and by recognizing that we all have both inherent dignity and valuable things to contribute. When we intentionally engage “Samaritans,” we usually uncover our deeper, mutual need to trust Jesus. That’s a win-win.
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