They entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?'
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, 'You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.'
And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman.
Should Jesus pay attention to a Samaritan woman drawing water at a well? The relationship between Jews and Samaritans was shaky at best, and violent at worst.
Should He disregard her? By custom, a Jewish man would not acknowledge a woman in public, much less a Samaritan woman living in sin. 'How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans?' (John 4:9).*
Consider His Choice: When Jesus walked the earth, religious, racial, cultural and economic prejudices blinded God's people. They still do. On the other hand, God's Eyesight is perfect: 'There is no partiality with God' (Romans 2:11).
What about our own eyesight? Do we suffer from myopia? Or even blindness?
How do we see 41,000 Protestant denominations? How do we see Catholics? How do we see more unusual sects, like Jehovah's Witnesses, Latter Day Saints or Quakers? Because they see themselves as Christians.
What about atheists, prodigals or other religions? Do we see them at all? Or do we huddle with our homies behind closed doors?
Remember Jesus. He left home ground to find common ground. His conversation with the Samaritan woman was on her turf. It began with water, because everyone thirsts and drinks. It ended with her proclamation of faith in Jesus as Messiah. Consequently, many of her townspeople believed. At their urging, Jesus stayed with them for two days.
The way I see it, most Christians focus on differences rather than similarities. To disregard other God-loving religions (Jews or Muslims, for instance) is standard. Even back then, Luke reported a different Samaritan village--one where Jesus was not welcomed. James and John were so angry they wanted to destroy the village, but Jesus rebuked them.
Would he rebuke His followers today? If we show prejudice toward other religions or denominations, I believe He would. Because why would anyone want to get closer to our King or His Words if we, who claim to follow Him, don't welcome them with love?
When we have a choice to regard or disregard the strangers God puts before our eyes, we must regard them with kindness--and search for common ground.
To Be Continued...
* John 4:1-42: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%204:1-42&version=NASB
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Priorities series.