Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By Ramone - June 26, 2009
Originally I was going to call this picture, "The Mixed Aroma", which is the title of one of the chapters in the book What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey. The chapter honestly describes the different "scents" that Christians often give off, particularly in the United States, where we often pride ourselves on being the most 'moral' people in society, and in turn look down at anyone who disagrees with us as being against morality and against God.
As I thought of that situation in America (how I wish it were not common, but it is!), it seemed so large, so unique, and thus so difficult. I couldn't think of anything like this in the Bible, so I began asking God if there were any Biblical example of this (so I could understand the situation better, and better yet, so I could see how God Himself reacted to such a big problem).
He then hit me with the obvious! He took me to John chapter 4, when Jesus went to Samaria and talked to a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.
In first century Jewish eyes, Samaritans were treated as unclean, as people not to be spoken with and definitely not dined with. They were treated like Gentiles and looked at in almost the same way, if not worse at times (Gentiles were "those who did not have the law" -- see Acts.2:23). Jews "had the law", they had the correct place of worship, the correct customs, and in short they knew the right way to obey "God's law".
The Samaritan woman Jesus talked with at the well probably had a lot of reasons not to talk to Jesus in the first place. They put up with a lot of judgment and discrimination. They were called unclean. They were not worthy of dining with. Although the Jews had "the truth" and salvation (Christ) would come from among them, that's not the aroma that most Samaritans initially got. They got the stench of discrimination and judgment instead.
She could have instantly turned away when Jesus asked her for a drink. But that He talked to her at all probably shocked her most. When she saw He was a prophet, she basically asked Him the question, "Who's right---us or them?", and He said the Jews were right, BUT... but He didn't leave it there. That "but" is important.
You see, if there were no "but", then she would have to accept that the Jews were right about everything they said -- and did. The discrimination and judgment hurt. And it was not God's love. So Jesus put in the caveat. "But..."
Jesus said that yes, the Jews knew God the "right way", but things were changing. He shifted things onto Himself by saying a time was coming and had now come when people would worship God by Spirit, and that He was the Messiah. The truth was not that the Jews had it all right, because in fact they had a lot of stuff just plain wrong.
Something was definitely missing from the package of "truth" given out by the Jewish religious institution of the day: God's love, God's Spirit! The two great commands were being thrown down -- the first by pride and serving idols in their hearts, and the second by judging one another, their neighbors, and the aliens and foreigners among them.
So on purpose Jesus once noted to His Jewish follwers that among ten people He'd healed, the only one who expressed thanks to Him happened to be a Samaritan. Another time Jesus used a Samaritan in a story to show what "love your neighbor" meant (the "lawful" priest and "clean" Levite got a failing grade in His story).
The package of "truth" is nothing without God's love. And without God's love, we don't know what God is actually doing. We start to miss what He's doing. And like many Jews did in the gospel story, we may eventually disown Him. In fact, it wasn't that the Jews had things "right", but rather that salvation was coming from them, and that salvation was Jesus. And He came not because of them, but in spite of them.
How often do we pride ourselves in our "group" -- that we know God and "they" don't? How often do we pride ourselves that we are moral people because we have "the law", and that "they" do not? How many people have been wounded by our judgment? How many people have not gotten the aroma of Christ because we gave them an aroma of judgment instead? We have God's word, and His word will be spoken. But is His salvation going to come to non-Christians because of us or in spite of us?
Look, He's reaching out from the crowd, from our crowd! Many of us are judging, and although He is among us, He is reaching out. He sees there are some people hurting on "the other side." Some are rejecting Him, but some are hurting. Others are confused and just don't know. Many of us don't care. Some of us "in His crowd" see what He's doing. Some of us are angry. Some of us are being moved and having our eyes opened. But without waiting for us, He is stepping across the border. He is standing in the gap. He is reaching across.
What are we doing?
See also: "Give Freely!" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)