Friday, March 25, 2011

Role Models

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?"
- John 4:28-29
The Gospel reading of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well that we will hear this Sunday has two important messages for us. First, we learn from Jesus how we are to treat other people. In His time, men did not speak to women they did not know, especially if they were alone. Plus, she was a Samaritan woman, and the Samaritans were hated by the Jews (and most everyone else). On top of all that, she was a sinner. We are told she was gathering her water in the middle of the day - most people would be inside taking a siesta during the hottest part of the day. This tells us that either she did not want to see anyone else, or that she was not welcome among them, both signs that she was a sinner, an outcast. Jesus confirms this when He comments that she has had five husbands, and the man she is with now is not her husband.

Despite all this, Jesus breaks all the taboos and speaks to her, even preaches to her, giving her the good news of His living water. He shows us that we should not be afraid to break down barriers and transcend social boundaries to reach out to the people who need to hear God's message.

We can also learn a lot from the woman herself. In fact, she's quite a role model for us. That might seem a little surprising given what we've just learned about her. But despite her failings, she also had many good qualities. First, she had an open mind. When Jesus was talking to her, she stopped what she was doing and listened. She asked questions. And she accepted the answers. She considered all that Jesus told her, and believed Him. We should do this too. When Jesus speaks to us, we should stop and listen. And we should ask Him questions. It's okay to question our faith, that's how we grow, but we must be prepared to listen to the answers God gives us, and if we feel in our heart that these answers are the truth, we must accept them.

The woman's next action is also a great example for us. She left her water jar and ran back to the town to tell everyone about her encounter with Jesus. Remember, she was shunned by her community, an outcast. But she didn't let that stop her. She was so excited about what she had learned that she overcame any fear or discomfort she might have felt and started spreading the news. And she must have been very persuasive, as the rest of the town immediately went out to see Jesus for themselves. Many believed simply because of what she told them, and many more were converted after spending a couple of days with Jesus. This woman, this one sinful woman, led to the conversion of almost a whole Samaritan town.

The message for us here is clear. We should be willing to proclaim our faith to anyone who will listen. We need to put aside fear of ridicule, and trust that our testimony will be accepted. If we choose the right words (with the help of the Holy Spirit) and let our excitement lead us, people will listen. We aren't called to convert entire towns, not even entire families. But maybe a neighbor. A colleague. Another mom at school. Look for opportunities, God will always give them to you. Then the next step is up to you. Leave your water jar, cross that boundary, and speak.

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