Every church has its share of “Samaritans“, people who don’t quite “fit–in“. No, I am not talking about people from the territory of Samaria in Israel. I am talking about people who, for whatever reason, don’t conform to the “norm” in the church.
The first-century people of Samaria were part of the children of Israel, but they didn’t “fit-in“. They didn’t worship in the temple in Jerusalem. They didn’t always wash their hands when they were “supposed to“. They had rejected all the nit-picky rules of the Scribes and Pharisees, and, in the case of the woman to the well, they hadn’t tossed her out of the community just because she had been married and divorced five times and was living with another man out of wedlock. The Jews would have stoned her, but Jesus met her with grace and mercy.
I got to thinking about this topic several weeks ago when our senior pastor mentioned looking out over our congregation and seeing and knowing who the “Samaritans” are. Many people would have been surprised by how many “Samaritans” are in our church, but I wasn’t, because I am one of them. I commented to him after the service what I am one of those “Samaritans“. How well a church accepts and loves its “Samaritans” is an important “benchmark” for how Christ-like the church is. OUCH! What many “good” Christians fail to realize is that they are in as desperate need of a Savior as the “worst” “Samaritan“.
Only God knows the depths of our struggles better than we do, because if others knew, we would probably be tossed out on our ear. Couples get recognized for how long they have been married, but nobody wants to know how many times a person has been married. I believe that is one of the reasons why most relationships between people in the church are so superficial. People just don’t want to know about other people’s struggles.
What does a “Samaritan” look like?
I came from a dysfunctional family. I have struggled with sexual addiction for most of my adult life. I have been married four times, widowed once, divorced twice, and my current “wife” is living with another man. I went through deep depression and desperate soul-searching for most of 2013. I am a nudist. I often question “traditional” interpretations of the Bible… the “traditions of the Elders“. I have a beard and long hair. I smoke. In case you haven’t put all the pieces together, I am a MESS. I am a work-in-progress, and that progress is pretty slow most of the time. I may look good and smell good, but I am in as desperate need of a Savior as any person who has ever lived. Jesus has met me with grace and mercy, just as He did the woman at the well.
But you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Jesus hadn’t forgotten the great spiritual need in Samaria when He commissioned His disciples. “Samaria” may be somewhere else, but “Samaritans” may be sitting in your church.
The church is called to be a field-hospital for the sin-sick and suffering, for “Samaritans“, not a social-club for the goody-two-shoes. I have seen churches with “No Smoking” signs on their property. Is that because they are “health-conscious“, or is it to keep the “wrong kind” out? Are “Samaritans” welcomed with open arms in your church?
How about you?
Do any of these things ring a bell in your life? This is NOT a message of condemnation for all of your failings. It is a message of hope, and as badly as you have failed, there IS a Savior who wants to extend His grace and mercy to you, as He has to me, as He did to that Samaritan woman at the well so many years ago. He is reaching out His nail-scarred hands, not to pick up a stone, but to enfold you in His arms, and as bad a mess as you are, He wants to make you His mess. Have you accepted His offer? Will you accept His offer?