Who's at Your Table?
“Soon, a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, ‘You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?’” John 4:7-9 NLT
Every day, you and I encounter someone that we don’t agree with, whether that be at work, at school, on Facebook, in our friendship circles, or within our families. Jesus encountered a similar situation at a well in Samaria. Jews typically had nothing to do with Samaritans, yet Jesus, a Jew, spent time with a woman He found there.
When Jesus encountered this woman, Jesus confronted her about the reality of her sin, and she immediately thought he might be a prophet. However, upon that realization, she asked, “So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim where our ancestors worshiped?” The first thing she wanted to know was where to worship. Jews and Samaritans just did NOT agree on how and where to worship. For her, this was similar to a trendy religious debate that we might have today, since Jews thought one thing and Samaritans thought another.
When the disciples returned from getting food to find Jesus talking to someone different than Him, they wondered, why are you hanging out with a Samaritan, Jesus? In other words, they were saying, “Don’t you know that’s not okay? Don’t you know that’s not normal?” The passage says they were shocked that Jesus was talking to her!
It’s not normal in our world today either for those with differences of opinion to spend time with one another. Normally, people who disagree on theological, political, or even smaller matters isolate each other. They dislike one another. They speak down to one another. At the very least, they cringe at the others’ words. They strike keys on their keyboards quickly without regards to the heart. There is no listening; there is no taking time to understand where the other is coming from. They certainly do not share a table or break bread together.
They do not do what Jesus did.
Jesus modeled by example that there is a better way to respond to people who are different than us. Jesus didn’t decide to leave this woman alone or degrade her with rash words in debate. Jesus decided to have a conversation with her and as a result, He was able to speak into her life in a way that compelled her to invite others to know Him.
The Samaritan woman ran away with a message. She said to everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” Because of an invitation like this, they went to see Jesus, they heard His words, and many more Samaritans came to believe in Jesus.
Lately I have been challenged by this story to ask myself, do I do a good job at loving those who don’t agree with me?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I are not required to debate with someone we disagree with. We certainly are not required to isolate ourselves from anyone who thinks differently than us. What is required of us? We are required to love them! Isn’t it easy to love someone who agrees with you? Isn’t it easy to love someone who is like you?
I challenge us to be like Jesus – to love like Him – to see people like Him – to answer questions with what people need and without an argument. Let’s strive to listen and understand without judgement. Let’s welcome those who are different than us to our tables. Then, let’s see what God does in the lives and hearts of those we open up a seat at our tables for.