The Samaritan woman took a lot of flack, I’d assume, while going about the business of her day. I am sure she was accustomed to the whispered comments and the disgusted expressions on the faces of those familiar with her indiscretions. How jolting, however, to be confronted by a man she had never seen before, over stepping socially correct boundaries by asking her to draw him water, and then speaking quite bluntly and authoritatively about the most intimate details of her life.
I try to put myself in her position, to apply that odd encounter to my contemporary existence, but I guess I don’t know how I’d respond to a stranger at the grocery store asking me to fill up his cart. I can’t say what I’d do if he accurately exposed, to my horror, that right before leaving for this errand I had torn into my son with excessive sternness for childish behavior unworthy of such wrath. After picking up my jaw from off the linoleum floor, would I stay for more of this uncomfortable conversation or just hightail it to the nearest check-out line for a quick get away? In this day and age, pointing fingers at anyone (unless of course they are narrow minded) is equivalent to putting a cigarette in the lips of a baby. Being called out on account of your sins is an assault that no one, in this great and civilized nation, deserves to be subject to. And besides, with the definition of sin being so hazy and all, who’s to say what is right or wrong?
Trying to infiltrate modern culture in order to redeem it is a bit like pouring dish soap in the ocean. Not only is that enormous body of water too turbulent and pervasive for being purified by such inadequate means, but also the soap itself becomes contaminated by the very filth it was trying to clean. To dress the part, speak the part, and play the part of progressiveness with the intent of appearing relevant, is more dangerous to the actors than inspiring to the real life characters they are trying to lure into the faith by spoon-feeding a message of feel-good love and approval. Over time, that “seeker sensitive” approach to evangelism will have no choice but to become broader, and even less offensive if it is to keep up with the ever-softening morals of our society. Even if one does accept Christianity based upon the image of Jesus presented, the image of a deity who will accentuate your comfortable lifestyle without actually demanding it from you, will they truly experience the Christian faith as described in the New Testament? By offering a sanctified version of what they have already, we deny them a chance to transcend this rat race entirely, to find themselves by losing themselves in Christ.
The Son of God, who met the Samaritan woman at the well for the purpose of transforming her soul, did not bring with Him kid gloves or a watered down version of the Truth. He rose above bigotry and chauvinism, yes, but proceeded to lay out the demands, nonnegotiable, for attaining His Living Water. Her many mistakes and foolish choices were forgivable; it is our will, not our sins, that keep us trapped in darkness. But the ball did lie in her court, so to speak. She was not pulled “irresistibly,” into Salvation. She had to act, to choose, and to change. The Samaritan woman, also known as Photini, is called “equal to the apostles” by the Church because she did not let a sinful past keep her from responding to Jesus. She accepted His disapproval of her transgressions, and then trusted in His mercy by turning from them. Immediately she departed from His presence, full of gratitude and enlightenment, devoting the remainder of her days to offering anyone within earshot an opportunity for a heart-mending conversion, unlike anything they had ever experienced before.
I compare myself often with the proverbial Jones’s, grumbling when I fall behind. I want Christ to fit in somewhere between my ever accumulating possessions and my rapidly filling calendar. I want to blend in, and claim my inalienable right to a piece of the American pie. Other times, however, like on this rainy afternoon, I am deeply aware of how shallow, how disappointing, how unfulfilling, is every accomplishment, every thing, and everyone (myself, most certainly included). It is times like this that I am most receptive to the witness of the Samaritan woman. “Tell me my shortcomings, expose all my wickedness, shed light on the secrets that are eating me alive! I am parched, and in need of refreshment.” It is times like now that I could toss aside everything, regardless of the consequences, and live fully for my one and only hope at being satisfied.
My shopping cart is full, and yet my neighbor’s is empty…whose thirst will Christ quench through me?