Samaritans Among Us

It’s one of those King James Bible phrases that has always intrigued me. John’s gospel said of Jesus, “He must needs go through Samaria” (John 4: 4). Actually, he didn’t have to go through Samaria in his journey north. The typical Jew would veer east or west in order not to pass through Samaria. Samaritans were seen as ethnically impure and spiritually impure since they worshiped idols along with the God of Israel, and Jews despised them.

Jesus didn’t have to pass trough Samaria, but he chose to. He needed to teach a lesson about the worth of every person in God’s kingdom.

In Samaria he met a woman who came to draw water at a well. She was alone, because even her own people had little to do with her. Dr. Frank Stagg used to call her a “three-time loser” since she was a woman, a Samaritan and immoral. She was surprised that Jesus would talk with her and even more surprised when he promised water she might drink and never thirst again.

The Jewish church must likewise have been surprised when Jesus told them not only to take the gospel to Jerusalem and Judea, but also to Samaria. The Christian gospel is stronger than human prejudice.

Prejudice is hard to understand, but it’s universal. I remember a news report years ago about a comedy program in Germany featuring one described as the “West German Archie Bunker.” The character hated East Germans. As an American I cannot understand why there was animosity in that day between these groups, as Germans probably would puzzle over our prejudices. Samaritans are everywhere.

I was a sophomore or junior in high school when our pastor preached a revival in Bibb County. He invited several of us teen-agers to go with him each night. I mentioned to the host pastor that a friend had started a youth organization that could come and conduct a rally with speaker and music if the church was interested. We had a young man in the group who was a fireball preacher and several musicians. The rest of us would go door-to-door and invite people to the event.

I remember several of us meeting with church leaders to talk about this. One of the men said, “There is an area in our community where we wouldn’t want you to go and invite people. You wouldn’t do that, would you?”

Joe exhibited some unusual candor when he said, “Everybody’s welcomed to hear the gospel.”

The meeting was soon over, and the event never happened.

What we discovered that day was there are yet Samaritans among us. We still need to hear the words of Jesus, and to follow him.