In my last post, I began a piece based off my sermon "Shame Less," centering on the Samaritan Woman in John 4. I drive home one key point, when you encounter Jesus your shame loses control over your life. When the Samaritan woman first meets Jesus shame is bullying this woman's life around, but by the end of the conversation Jesus frees her from shame. In the last post I unpacked one way her encounter with Jesus freed her. In this post I offer two more observations.
Jesus offers "Living Water" regardless of performance
The text says, "He [Jesus] had to go through Samaria." John is not saying Jesus had no alternate route to bypass Samaria because Jews made it a point to avoid Samaria. The path around Samaria was a well worn path. Jesus had to go through Samaria because he had to see her. He had to see her because he needed to give her something: “living water.” He wanted to give her the gift of himself, a path to true fulfillment, a life free of shame, hurt, brokenness and fear.
He came to offer her water as she was. He did not say, “First, you need to marry this guy you are living with and then we’ll talk about the water. Oh, before that, I’ll need to see the divorce documents from the other five guys you married and divorced. If you divorced these guys for any other reason than adultery I will not recognize and accept the divorce. If that is the case, you will have to go back to the first guy…” Neither does he say, “Get your life together and then you will be worthy to drink," but says instead, “I came here! I came here where no Jew wants to come to find you, to give you this living water. I came here so you can drink now; you need it now. My gift for you is not based on how well you perform; it’s based on my love."
Shame has so many of us locked in an arm-bar because we find it nearly impossible to believe the life Jesus offer us, the “living water,” derives solely from his character and love and has nothing to do with our performance. It is hard to believe because most of your life you are judged and accepted based on your performance. It starts as early with potty training. If you make the right deposits in the right little buckets you get “Yay! Did him do a poopie! Great job!” You get Skittles and gummy bears. Some parents even throw “Potty Parties" with banners, cakes, and "Pin the Toilet seat on the John." Society evaluates your ability to gather, store, and regurgitate information on a percentage system. Score less than 70% you received a performance score of FAILURE! Colleges accept you based on how well you perform. You accumulate medals and trophies by performing physical feats better than those around you. Companies promote and offer raises based on your performance. No wonder when you have an EPIC FAIL the door is left wide open for shame to come in and tell you how useless, worthless, and unlovable you are. And yet Jesus comes along and says, “70% or 110%, I love you. What I have to offer is not for people who have it together. It is for everyone.”
Many people refuse to become a Christian until they "get it together." They are missing the point. You need to become a Christian because you don’t have it together. Jesus silences her shame by offering her "living water" while she is at her worst. He offers you the same, water just as you are.
Jesus levels the playing fieldAfter engaging Jesus for awhile in conversation, the woman realizes Jesus is more than a guy looking for a Gatorade. She acknowledges that he is a prophet which leads her to ask him a question regarding "true" worship. She wants to know who is right: Jews or Samaritans. Are the Jews right in naming the Temple in Jerusalem as the center of Yahwheh worship, or are the Samaritans right by naming Mount Gerizim as the true center of worship.
Jesus responds, “A time is coming when location, ethnicity, color, age, or gender won’t matter and neither will past mistakes, sins, and failures. Everyone who has the Spirit, who accepts my living water, will bear the title of a legit worshiper."
The ”People of God” is not determined by a certain group of people: it’s not American people, middle class people, not republican people or democrat people, not "people who have grown up in church" people, not "people who look like they have it together" people. It’s simply "Spirit People," people who accept the gift of Jesus, the living water. He told her, "YOU, yes you, with 5 ex-husbands and your boyfriend, you are no lesser than the Pharisees in Jerusalem or the Priests at the temple." He tells this woman - a woman judged daily by her community to the point of fetching water alone in the noonday sun, a woman whose train-wrecked life has pushed her to the margins…he tells her, “If you have my Spirit there is no pecking order. You are all the same!”
It doesn’t matter what kind of baggage you have in tote. It does not matter if you carry a small day-pack burdened with a couple of cliff bars and Vitamin Water or if you push a cart piled high with half-a-dozen 50 pound suitcases – when you drink the living water, when you become a Christian, when you receive the Spirit - Jesus shows up at the baggage claim and takes it all! He takes it, leaving you free.
If you are in Christ you share the same Spirit as all who are in Christ. God does not hand out blue ribbons in heaven. Heaven does not have a gold medal stand. There is only ONE people, and no matter your past if you are in Christ you are part of the ONE people!! You, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, the ex-guitarist ex-druggie from Korn, and the murderer turned Christian all get the same seat at the table. When you come to grips with this truth, it will disarm your shame. It did with the Samaritan woman.