Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Samaritans

My boomerang won’t come back!

boomerang-25796_1280This was the title of a hit song from about fifty years ago. Sung by a British singer with a cockney accent, it was the lament of a young Australian Aborigine who couldn’t get his boomerang to come back to him. It was the type of politically incorrect, culturally insensitive song that would never be heard today.( Misogynist rap songs appear to be acceptable, though.) At the end of the song the boy is told, “If you want your boomerang to come back, first you’ve got to throw it!”

I wonder if that isn’t the problem with a lot of our attempts at Christian evangelism. God has promised: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). We say we believe that to be true, so we go through all the motions of evangelism, of throwing our boomerang, but we can’t seem to bring ourselves to let go of it. Thus there are great swaths of people around us who are completely untouched by the gospel.

In Jesus’ parable, the sower went out and threw the seed away with reckless abandon. Most of it brought no return at all, but some of it did bring abundant, astounding returns. Isn’t that what we should be doing? If we target only those who we are most comfortable talking to, we might meet a lot of quite decent people who are quite well satisfied with their life the way it is.

The disciples never expected a harvest for the gospel in Samaria, but that’s where they were when Jesus told them to lift up their eyes and see the fields ripe for harvest. And here were the people of Sychar coming out to hear Jesus and prepared to believe Him because of the testimony of the woman He had met at the well.

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. (Ecclesiastes 11:4-6)

Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters.  (Isaiah 32:20)

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild

GENTLE Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child,
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee:

Fain I would to Thee be brought,
Dearest God, forbid it not:
Give me, dearest God, a place,
In the kingdom of thy grace.

-Charles Wesley

The words of the song give us an appealing description of our Lord and Saviour. There is a snare in the way, however, if the way we define gentle, meek and mild comes to resemble wimpiness. If we think that we are following “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” when we shrink back from openly confessing our faith in Him, we have fallen into the snare.

What picture do the gospels give of this gentle and meek Jesus? It is recorded in John chapter eight that the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been captured in the very act of adultery and told Him that the law of Moses said she should be stoned. Jesus did not argue, He simply said “Very well then, whichever of you has no sin may cast the first stone.” Then He stooped down and wrote in the dust. We may safely assume that He was not playing tic-tac-toe or drawing funny faces. It appears that He wrote things that made each of them feel very uncomfortable and they decided one by one that they had urgent business elsewhere.

In chapter nine Jesus encounters a man who was born blind. In other instances He simply spoke a word to heal the blind or raise the dead. Here He spits on the ground, takes the mud, smears it on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Why such an elaborate procedure in this one instance? The Bible does not say, but from the context it appears that Jesus considered this a teachable moment, an opportunity to reveal the hardness of the Pharisee’s hearts. It was the Sabbath day and Jesus’ method of healing on this occasion involved work on His part and on the part of the man healed. The blind man appears to have had his eyes opened in more ways than one. He was excommunicated from the synagogue for working on the Sabbath and was not greatly troubled by it, because he had found the Son of God.

In His visit with the Samaritan woman in John chapter four, Jesus flouts the rules of proper Jewish etiquette. It was not considered proper to visit alone with a woman, nor to ask a woman for a drink. The fault was compounded by the fact that Samaritans were considered to be unclean from birth. Yet Jesus sat there at the well engaging in a banter with this woman that gently led into the revelation of the woman’s marital status. We are tempted to pause here and pass a moral judgement on this woman. Remember, though, that the Samaritans had the Pentateuch and the law of Moses, which made no provision for a woman to divorce her husband. We are not told what fault, or whim, caused her to be rejected and divorced by five men. Nor do we need to know, it was a common practice, both among the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus’ statement that “he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” is somewhat enigmatic. It may mean nothing more than that she was espoused to a sixth man, but not yet married.

The disciples were astonished to find Jesus sitting and visiting with this Samaritan woman. No doubt they were even more ill at ease when Jesus decided to enter this Samaritan town, accept the hospitality of Samaritans, eat Samaritan food and teach the way of salvation to Samaritans. These were the “fields white unto harvest” that the disciples were unable to see at first, due to their Jewish prejudices.

In all these examples we see Jesus as genuinely meek and mild, yet His conduct can in no way be described as wimpy. In other circumstances, we observe that Jesus was nowhere near so gentle with those he saw to be hypocrites. Even in those circumstances, he did not fly into fits of rage, or make baseless accusations. He just bluntly spoke the truth.

All these examples lead me to conclude that if it is my custom as a professing believer to go to great pains to avoid any danger of confrontation for what I believe, I cannot truly claim to be a follower of Jesus.

To see as God sees

By virtue of my birth into this world, I am of the earth, earthy.  This means that I have a natural affinity for all that is earthy.  I gauge success the way the world gauges success; I gauge failure the way the world gauges failure.  I expect governments to care for the elderly, the mentally ill and those incapacitated by drug and alcohol abuse.  I expect governments to fix the problem of unmotivated, disrespectful young people.  I blame the government for unemployment, crime and the store clerk who can hardly speak English.

This is what comes naturally to me as a citizen of this world.  However, I have been born a second time, a spiritual birth that has made me a citizen of the heavenly kingdom.  Yet my worldview, my concept of how things work in this world and what is important in this world, did not automatically change when I was born again.

Perhaps this was Jonah’s problem.  He was a servant of God, a prophet, yet when God called him to go and preach to Nineveh all he could see was the danger to his own country.  The Assyrian Empire was a great threat to his country and even though God called him to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh, he knew in his heart that God cared about people.  That was fine if it were limited to the people of his own country, but Nineveh?  He wanted no part in being an instrument of God’s mercy to them!  It took a special object lesson to soften the prophet’s heart before he could rejoice in God’s mercy for the 120,000 small children in Nineveh.

Why is it so difficult for a child of God to understand God’s value system?  To realize that the things that seem so important to me in my earthiness are of no importance at all to God?  To understand the great compassion and love of God for those around me who are so different from the kind of people that I think are pleasing to God?

Jesus told the disciples to lift up their eyes to see the fields that were ripe and ready for the harvest.  When they looked, all they could see was a crowd of those despised Samaritans.  Is my vision any better than theirs?

Lift up your eyes

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.  John 4:35

We often quote this verse in evangelical circles when the topic comes to missions.  Do we remember the circumstances in which Jesus spoke these words?

He was sitting on Jacob’s well near the Samaritan town of Sychar.  His disciples had just returned from purchasing food in the town and they urged Him to eat.  He tried to explain to them why He didn’t feel hungry.

The disciples probably wanted to make this trip through Samaria as quickly as possible.  Like all Jews, they viewed the Samaritans as spiritually, morally and ethnically corrupted.  They did not want to spend much time with these people.

However, during the time that the disciples had been food shopping, Jesus had carried on a lengthy conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well.  The woman had rushed back into the town to tell people that she had met the Messiah.  Right now, while Jesus was talking to the disciples, a long stream of Samaritans was coming toward the well to see this man of whom the woman had spoken.

Thus, when Jesus spoke the words, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest,” the disciples could see the crowd of Samaritans coming to meet Him.

Samaritans!!  Can you imagine the shocked look on the disciples’ faces?  Of all the people in this country, why Samaritans?  Yet Jesus remained in this town two days to teach the people, and many of them believed on Him.

Is Jesus telling us today to lift up our eyes?  Is He telling us we are not looking where He wants us to look?  We probably have a clear picture in our mind of the kind of people who would make good Christians, if they would just give their hearts to the Lord.  The kind of people we would feel comfortable sitting next to in church.

Could it be, just maybe, that Jesus is trying to tell us that these nice people are probably too good in their own eyes to see any need of conversion?  But there is a group of people over here who know that something is very wrong and are searching for an answer.  Many of them will believe if someone can present the gospel in a way they can understand.

We can refuse to look in that direction and life will go on more or less as before.  Occasionally one or two of those nice people will get converted, and we will comfort ourselves that we are truly obeying the Great Commission, it’s just that there are very few people interested in the gospel.

How long can we avoid Jesus’ command to lift up our eyes, before our own spiritual life grows cold?

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