Saturday, March 06, 2010

Don't Make Excuses

In her devotional You’re the Voice, Rebecca St. James wrote; “Our generation has been sold the lie that in order to live a happy life, all we have to do is think about ‘me’ and ‘how I feel,’ when the opposite is the truth.  I think that’s why Jesus stressed so often the importance of serving others.  Real joy comes from forgetting ourselves.” (p. 20)

Jesus always had a heart for people.  He could be tired and hungry, but he would spend time with people who needed him.  That was the nature of Jesus, always helping and reaching out to people who needed help.

I am the opposite.  I look for ways to avoid helping others and I make excuses why I cannot help.  The reason that I do that is because I have other uses for my time, my money, or things.   There are simply other things I would rather do.

The trouble with that way of thinking is God has asked us to reach out to people.  God wants us to give up what we want to do and follow Him.  That means regardless how we feel we need to love and reach out to the people around us.

Jesus provided for us the perfect example of this truth.  Take a look at John 4:7-26
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;  for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 
 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (NLT)

Reading this story we miss out on how truly amazing it is, because we live in a different time and culture.  Besides being hungry and tired there were three social or cultural obstacles that should have prevented Jesus from reaching out to this woman.

Obstacle # 1: The woman was a Samaritan.
Jesus was traveling from Judea to Galilee.  The shortest route between these two places was to walk through Samaria.  The Samaritan race resulted from the interracial marriage of Jews and Assyrians.  As a result, Jews viewed the Samaritans to be impure and did everything possible to avoid traveling through Samaria.  But Jesus purposely chose to travel through Samaria.

God does not have favorites.  The nationality or race of a person is not what is important to God.  He loves us all, and He wants us all to have a chance to hear about and respond to His love.  Jesus shows us that nationality should not be an obstacle.
Obstacle # 2: The woman was a known sinner.
Here is a lady that could go on a number of talk shows today.  Five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband.  The fact that this woman came at noon to draw water rather than in the morning or evening tells us that she was not accepted by the other women of her community.  She had a reputation and therefore she was an outcast.

Jesus knew the sins of this woman, but he also knew the sins of the disciples.  We may attach different levels to our sins, but to Jesus sin is sin.  The reputation of woman wasn’t an obstacle for him because he saw her as just another sinful person in need of forgiveness.

Obstacle #3: The woman was in a public place.
At this time, a respectable man would never have talked to a woman with the reputation of the Samaritan woman.   It is said that in Jewish culture at that time a man would not even talk to his own daughter or wife in public.  There was a sexist obstacle for Jesus to overcome.

Jesus shows us that there is no label or obstacle that should prevent us from reaching out to people.  It didn’t matter that this person was a Samaritan, a sinner, or a woman, Jesus loved her and wanted her to know about God.

As I look at Jesus’ example in this story I realize how flimsy my excuses often are.  Jesus was hungry, but he talked to the woman.  Jesus was tired, and he wasn’t short or rude to the woman.  Jesus reached out to her and treated her with compassion and respect.  Two things she probably hadn’t experienced in a long time.

Think about how your life would be different if Jesus would have made excuses and not gone to the cross.  Consider where you would be right now if your parents or that person who led you to Jesus made excuses and never gave you an opportunity to know God.

My point is that because other people put God’s will ahead of their needs and feelings we have the hope of eternal life today.  Who is missing out because you are making excuses?

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