Engaging Sinners


I was struck this past Sunday when I preached from John 4 the similarities to Samaritans and our culture. In the first century, Jews hated the Samaritans and believed God did as well. In fact, one first century Jewish writing stated that “God despised Samaritans.” In John 8, to insult Jesus, the Pharisees called him a Samaritan.

It made me think about how many Christians, in the name of Jesus, hold up signs letting the world know who God hates and despises.

Now, before you miss my heart, let me explain something. Sin is real. I do believe homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26 – 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9 to name a few passages). I do not believe that being gay is the new black or that someone is born gay.

In John 4, Jesus’ disciples are blown away that Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman. In the first century, Jews did not speak to Samaritans. Men did not speak to women. Jewish Rabbis certainly did not speak to women. Women were not taught theology at the time. There was no need in the view of that culture.

Yet, John 4:4 says Jesus had to pass through Samaria instead of taking the normal route from Judea to Galilee. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was working on this woman’s heart, preparing her for the gospel. When we share our faith, the Holy Spirit has been at work in that person’s life, we are simply showing up to the party late. 

Jesus talks to this woman. He does not come out and point out her sin, although he does eventually. He engages with her. Too many Christians jump to, “You are a sinner” instead of engaging a person in a relationship. We think that waving signs, protesting, yelling at people will wake people up to the gospel.

Jesus, before pointing out any sin first points to something better. Instead of starting with the negative, he points out what could be for this woman, a vision for a life that could be. This creates a longing for something more. Instead of pointing out her sin, he allows her to admit it (John 4:17). This shows the work going on in this woman’s heart.

Through this approach, this woman is changed. To the point that she immediately tells the entire town about the change in her life (John 4:28 – 29).

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