Let’s consider Jesus’ approach to the unsaved (John 4:7–13). As you read over this section of chapter 4 in John, the character and compassion of Christ are evident in the masterful ways in which He treats the woman at the well. You’ll want to take note of the small things that verify His commitment to reach the unloved and marginalized in His culture.
First of all, remember that Jesus traveled through Samaria. While verse 4 states that “He needed to go through Samaria,” the truth is that most Jews would have never taken such a detour. They would have traveled around Samaria rather than to risk the possibility of mingling with those despised “half-breeds.”
According to the actions of Christ the church should intentionally engage with cultural Samaritans. As Jesus states in Matthew 25:40, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
Second, you’ll note that Jesus speaks to the woman. Who would have thought that a simple statement like “Give Me a drink” would have such a profound meaning? The truth is that unlike His Jewish brethren, Jesus saw this woman in a different light. To Him, she was much more than a social outcast.
His words affirmed the woman’s humanity and her value to God. He obviously cared more about the woman’s soul than His religious traditions. If this weren’t true, then why is He in this situation? In fact, beyond His presence in Samaria and His speaking to a woman with questionable morals, there is the nature of His request, “Give Me a drink.” Think about it: according to the woman’s response, Jesus had “nothing to draw with.”
So, what is the point? It is really simple: Jesus was obviously willing to drink from the same container as the woman. Wow! Imagine that! Jesus was willing to get Samaritan germs if it meant gaining the confidence of the woman for the sake of her faith.
Unfortunately, sometimes the church conveniently forgets that reaching out to hurting people is often messy, inconvenient, and outside of established comfort zones and religious taboos.
There is one last observation from this part of the story relating to Christ’s approach that will serve to assist in reaching out to an unsaved culture. It is worth observing that Jesus practiced good, active listening skills with the woman. That may not sound like much, but in our contemporary culture, listening equals love! Before pointing out the woman’s obvious sin, Jesus expressed genuine compassion and understanding that eventually led to a Samaritan revival.
Regardless of religious traditions and personal preferences, always be careful not to limit God’s grace and mercy to a certain segment of society or culture.