In a small town, it is easy to get a bad reputation. And this scenario isn’t any different.
This woman (we will call her Jessica) was not only known for having a bad track record, but even now she is living with a man who isn’t her husband. I guess I should clarify and say, “one of her husbands,” because there are several. All in the town have marked her as an outcast… I mean, except for the men that are looking for a “good time.” Jessica is a slut in the eyes of the civilized and uncivilized alike.
This past weekend I helped lead worship at our church’s satellite campus in Stamford, CT. The city isn’t in the pristine condition of neighboring Greenwich. As a whole, however, Stamford isn’t much different than any other urban city in America. The church meets in a movie theater right in the heart of the city. Before the theater opens and people stream in, the church sets up, meets for congregational fellowship, and tears everything down with the coming crowd being completely unaware of all that had happened earlier that day.
What struck me as strange in my commute this week was passing the building where the “Jerry Springer Show” meets. Just two blocks away from where our church meets (in a movie theater) is one of the most degrading and debasing shows ever to hit the boob tube. I passed the building a couple weeks ago, and there were people flooding the street, waiting in line, hoping to get in to see the crudeness that would soon ensue.
Jessica isn’t a woman you or I know. She is a woman whose name has been lost over time. Today many Christians know her as “the woman at the well.” When the people in her community saw her as an outcast, Jesus came and shared with her the secrets to the kingdom of heaven. When men had spent years taking advantage of her and debasing her, Jesus chose to share with her, more than any other human, the secret of who he was as the Son of God.
She was neither worthy nor deserving of even being spoken to by a Rabbi of such high esteem. She was someone who today we would see on the Springer Show.
The woman at the well wasn’t even a Jew. The Jews saw themselves as the heirs of the Promise of God. The Samaritans, to whom the woman belonged, were a group of mixed lineages who worshiped at a different Temple than the true Temple in Jerusalem. Many Jews saw them as half-breeds. And this woman was the lowest of them.
The most profound moment of the woman’s encounter with Jesus was when she asked him about the Temple where she worshiped. She was wondering what he, as a Jew, thought about these “half-breeds” worshiping at a different Temple than the one they were supposed to. This is what Jesus said: “The time is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… but the true worshipers will worship the Father in sprit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.”
With Christ’s statement, he opened the door! A message of hope that was once exclusively to the Jews is now being offered to everyone! Where the people of God once had to go to the Temple to experience the Presence of God, now God’s Presence is made available to all people.
God isn’t looking for people who attend the right or wrong temple or church. God is seeking those who worship him in spirit and truth. That’s why we can meet in a movie theater down the road from Jerry Springer. That’s why any person from any walk of life is welcome to worship Jesus as Lord.
Jesus seeks out those who are hurting and abused. He doesn’t care how the world might view them. Jesus brings the message of reconciliation and restoration.
Are we doing the same?
2 thoughts on “Radical Restoration and Racy Reputations”
I guess my first follow up question is, how does “a woman at the well” enter into a church and start again? Wash away all of the filth while not being judged, for even entering and attempting to follow God (whether it be for the first time or the 100th). I’ve really been enjoying your blog, Bobby, and would like to continue some of these discussions at another point. Thank you for your spirit and kind words. It is definitely helping illuminate a hardened heart. 🙂
Washing away the filth has to do with what I’ve talked about it my “Promiscuity of Purity” post. Being “righteous” means you are put in right relationship with God. It is a right or wrong, not a more “in the right” less “in the right” kind of situation. If you come back to God from a point of filth, you might not be completely whole again, but you will be viewed as innocent in a court of law. From there, you need to pursue God, allow Him to change you, and rebuild that relationship. In Colossians, Paul talks about stripping off the bad and putting on the good. He uses an illustration of changing dirty clothes and putting clean ones on.
As far as “being judged” goes, you just need to realize that if you are judged, it might not be your fault. You can’t stop what other people think, and they shouldn’t expect people to have their lives together BEFORE coming to God. Judgment would be a “their issue” thing more than a “your issue” thing. You just have to get to a point where you make a decision to pursue God and work towards reconciliation despite the fact that others might judge you or so on. But for most of the Christians I know, they would embrace a prodigal like the father in the prodigal son story – they will run with open arms, and they will embrace and throw a party!
Coming back to God shouldn’t be a situation of fear, but it should be one of rejoicing! I hope this helps!