Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Samaritans And Birth Parents


We are taking a class on foster parenting. One of my biggest concerns (code word: fears) is dealing with birth parents. I, like many, have seen this as a hindrance to becoming a foster parent. And, if I'm being honest, I have approached birth parents whose kids are now in the foster care system with judgement. Before taking this class, I have simply viewed them as "bad parents" and did not stop to consider their stories or how they might have come to a place in their lives through poor choices that they have their children taken away from them. I didn't think about their pain or suffering. How un-Christlike is that?

Certainly John 4:4-26 cut through all of that for me. It's the account of Jesus and the woman by the well. At that time, Jews avoided Samaria and would purposefully walk the long way around rather than walk through this town. Why? Because they didn't consider the Samaritans to be truly Jewish since they were part of the northern kingdom when Israel was divided in 922 BC. Two hundred years after the division, Assyria took over Samaria and the Israelites were forced out. When the Israelites later returned, they began to intermarry with the Assyrians that were still living there. To the Jews, the Samaritans were the lowest of the low. Of course that's where Jesus goes. Isn't that always the case with him?

Not only does he go into Samaria, but he speaks with one of them. Unheard of in Jewish culture of that day. But he doesn't just speak to any Samaritan, he speaks to a woman. This was definitely not done. But she's not just any Samaritan woman because she's at the well around noon, the hottest part of the day, and the time when no other woman would go and fetch water. She's a woman avoiding other women. She's avoiding their scorn, their judgements, their gossip, and harshness towards her. This woman doesn't want to be spoken to because the words she hears are harsh cruel ones. But not on this day. Jesus is there at the well waiting for her. It is the longest recorded conversation Jesus has with anyone.

Jesus is loving the lowest of the low in the lowest of the low. She can't even reach the bottom rung. But it's always at the bottom, at the lowest part, that we will always encounter Jesus. He promised us that that is where we would find him.

To continue in his list of doing the unthinkable, Jesus asks her to draw him some water. For him to drink from her cup is to make himself unclean. He is breaking religious and cultural taboos left and right. Why? To love someone who desperately needs this love. Jesus is gentle and tender with this woman. He knows exactly where she is in her life and does not approach her with scorn or judgement. He offers her grace, "living water" because she is spiritually thirsty. Jesus is offering himself and salvation to her and she believes.

It's at this point that Jesus' disciples return to him. Can you imagine what was going through their minds as they saw him talking to this Samaritan woman? I doubt there was compassion, but they didn't dare question their teacher. Though scripture records two questions "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" so you know that they were thinking both these things.

Why am I so much more like the disciples than the savior I, too, claim to follow?

Who are the Samaritans in my life?

Will I approach birth parents with the same compassion, mercy, and grace Jesus did the woman at the well?

Do I do that with others I might normally look down on? Such as homeless people?

Or people on welfare?

Or people in prison?

Illegal immigrants?

Refugees?

Jesus saw past the woman's life to her her heart, to her needs. Jesus is showing us that we are to reach beyond what we consider acceptable and go to those who are outcast, marginalized, and so often forgotten, neglected, or even persecuted. We are to move past our stereotypes, prejudices, and customs. We should be like Christ and work in love. We should do as Mother Teresa said, "Let us conquer the world with our love."

How much will this world change if we truly do that?

How much will we change when we truly do that?

Let us find out by starting today.


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