The world is divided into many regions of people with varying characteristics,such as race,ethnicity,culture,religion,among others which are different from one people to another.
In this era that interaction is necessary,we cant afford to live in one shell,we need to move out and relate to other people through trade,sharing of intellect,learning,sports,etc.
Therefore,there is great need to overcome the barriers that come with the variety.
In other words, in the world today there is perhaps more interaction between peoples, cultures and religions than in any period in human history that calls for dialogue and mutual respect, tolerance and understanding with one another. In a multi-cultural and pluralistic society, we are invited and challenged to move out of our culture and ideology to welcome and embrace the “other.”
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
We can learn some ways of dealing with this from Jesus in his interaction with the Samaritan woman. It happened at a time when Samaritans and Jews were customarily enemies who could not interact. Theracial and cultural (not to mention the theological) barriers present at this encounter were insurmountable. When Jesus asked this woman for a drink of water, she was caught completely off guard, “… Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9).
There were two ways to travel from Jerusalem to Galilee – the high road and the low road. The high road was the short road, but it went through Samaria, and since the Jews didn’t like the Samaritans, they usually took the low road, down to Jericho and up the Jordan River valley. But decided to travel through Samaria. So already we learn that Jesus was not a prejudiced as most Jews were – he was willing to go to foreign territory.
Like Jesus,we should not let prejudices inconvenience us due to unwillingness to interact with others.
[Verse 8] tells us that His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. Now, as verse 9 tells us, most Jews would have nothing to do with Samaritans, so it is pretty remarkable that Jesus sent his disciples into town to do some grocery shopping. He had apparently already taught them that it was OK to buy food from the Samaritans.
Jesus did three things that were highly unconventional and astonishing for his cultural-religious situation:He as a man discussed theology openly with a woman. He as a Jew asked to drink from the ritually unclean bucket of a Samaritan and he did not avoid her, even though he knew her marital record in spite of himself,being Christ.Therefore,we should be willing to lose some ground of our own cultural beliefs and racial cocoons in order to accommodate those of others and interact with them.
In this text, Jesus tears down the dividing wall of hostility and prejudice that separates the Jews and Samaritans. He takes the initiative to break this hostility and prejudice by requesting for a drink from the woman (v. 7). Jesus meets this woman on a common ground of simple humanity and makes his request.
His conversation with the woman is a digging process of a well in her heart, removing the strata of doubt and social prejudice that she had. Systematically. Jesus leads her to a deeper level, using her own feelings and psychological thoughts to capture her attention and to win her over. He enters into her life situation, uses her very words and thoughts to help her see beyond her imagination. Even though she sees Jesus as a stranger, she is open to the dialogue
The woman’s response is based on their deep cultural differences. For it was unthinkable for a Jew to talk to a Samaritan as the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans because they are considered unclean (v. 9). To relate to a Samaritan entails defining one and going against Jewish laws. Jesus took a risk and did not take these into consideration. Despite the crudeness of her perception, she willingly, trusted the stranger and made her petition with confidence. This is became the beginning of understanding.
Jesus’ foreknowledge manifests something profound in the woman’s life. Yet what is needed is honesty, respect, and willingness to share one’s views, relying on the intrinsic value. However, having been confronted by her personal life situation, she makes a shift to worship to avoid embarrassment!
Knowing the sensitive parts of a people and the facts of what they believe in gives one a dimension with which to start their interaction. The other party will be sucked into it by the initial knowledge and eventually appreciate you. Also,this knowledge drives your interaction,that you dont overstep their emotional boundaries.
The need was to make the Gospel both relevant to this woman as well as desirable. To do this, Jesus worked upon her sense of curiosity and physical need. He said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (V.10).This statement generated interest on ‘what was He trying to offer? No doubt this woman had heard a lot of approaches before, and yet it appeared that this Man was trying to give, not to get. What was His angle? Who was He? There had been no formal introduction.
We should be candid in bringing out topics to people who are touchy about them. In as much as we may aim at changing their circumstances,we should be careful how we do it. If you sell sunscreen,you cant tell a white person..”Hey,this is a product for your white,nontropical face..”!
Ultimately,our purpose will have been realized if we set aside our socio-cultural differences. Furthermore,its not our cultures that we seek to promote,its our ideals.The racial and cultural barriers, I believe, have been hurdled. The woman is now willing to converse, paving the way for further penetration with the Gospel. Notice that Jesus neither defended Jewish bigotry, nor did He explain how He differed with them. His actions spoke decisively enough. Concentration on such issues would not convert this woman.
What an example to learn from?Jesus Himself!