Let’s dive back into chapter 4 of John, specifically verse 27. As Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, the disciples came back from getting food. I can picture them talking and laughing as they approach. One notices Jesus talking to the woman, nudging the guy next to him. Soon they’re all staring at the strange site, no one asking why Jesus is talking to a woman. Their prejudice must have been clear as day. Jews do not associate with Samaritans, and men do not chat with women.
I think we all need to admit that we have prejudice of some sort. It could be based on age, religion, race, socioeconomic status, appearance, knowledge, or a number of other things. The sooner we acknowledge this malignant growth in our hearts, the sooner we are able to get it removed by grace and love.
We are naturally drawn to people who are like us, and it’s not a bad thing to have friends who are similar to us. However when we begin to think “I’m good,” that’s when things go south. Our friend groups start to close, and people begin to feel the sting of rejection. To reject someone, regardless of who they are, is to reject someone who God made. According to Ephesians 2:20, we are His masterpiece. A masterpiece is a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship. He didn’t make someone on accident or add too much or too little of anything. Each person was hand crafted with intention, care, and love.
Everyone should feel welcomed and loved at church because we understand that no one person is better or worse than another. We are all loved the exact same amount by a Creator who designs with purpose. I think sometimes we get caught up in the appearance of being kind, loving, and welcoming and fall short of actually being kind, loving, and friendly. I know I do. I want people to make connections and build friendships, but I don’t want to be that friend because I already have my group of friends. But how can I assume that someone else will be that friend?
There is a psychological term called the bystander effect, or Genovese Syndrome. After 37 witness failed to report a woman being attacked outside her apartment, psychologists found that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present. Each person defers their responsibility, assuming that someone else will do it.
As the church, we need to assume that if I don’t reach out to this person, no one else will. We need to lift our eyes to the Lord and see what He sees. There are so many people who are so hungry for the Lord, but they are looked past because we defer our responsibility. We get so wrapped up in going to Taco Bell with our friends that we don’t see the people who desperately need a friend. I will tell you right now that you will have awkward conversations. There will be times when you reach out to someone new, and they look extremely uncomfortable or the conversation never gets past talking about college majors. That’s okay! We know that some laborers plant seeds and never get to see the fruits of their labor. You cannot possibly see what is happening in someone’s heart. Perhaps your short, awkward conversation is another domino in that person’s decision to give their life to Christ.
People experience God through His church, through us. Are we going to live lives that declare His abundant love, or are we going to close our circles and only show His love to our friends?
But because the church is comprised of broken people who have a tendency to fail, there will be times when people slip through the cracks and don’t receive the hospitality they need. If that’s you, I need you to hear me when I say that other people’s acceptance does not determine your worth. When people fail you (which will happen daily), the Lord does not. You are His masterpiece, His craftsmanship. He carefully knit you together in your mother’s womb. If the DNA from every cell in your body was stretched from end to end, it would span to the moon and back 178,000 times. He carefully constructed that DNA in you; He made no mistakes when choosing each character. If you question your value or how He sees you, I beg you to watch this sermon. It so beautifully examines how you were created and the care the Lord took when making you.
I have felt rejection, loneliness, insecurity, failure, worthlessness. I have let it wreck me. But this Samaritan woman did not let it stop her. I guarantee she saw the looks on the disciples’ faces, looks of disgust, confusion, and rejection. And yet she ran. She ran to the village of people who outcasted her, and she told of the glory of God. Let’s use her as an example of how to live loved in rejection. To understand to our core how much the Lord values us. Rather than focusing on ourselves when we feel left out, lonely, and rejected, let’s focus on others. Let’s lift our eyes and begin to see those around us the way that God sees them- as holy and precious children.