It’s midday, the sun is high overhead, the surrounding mountainous land is parched and dry, and she is hot. The woman goes out to draw her water for the day, knowing she’ll be alone at the well this time of day, away from sideways looks and gossiping tongues. With a sigh, she hefts her jar into a more comfortable position and, looking up, spies someone at the well. It’s a man – a Jewish man – and she knows her men. She gets to the well, and this guy dares to ask her for some water to drink. He doesn’t have anything with which to drink and certainly nothing with which to draw water. On top of that, he offers her this special water, living water, and claims that anyone who drinks this water will never be thirsty again. She wants some of that!
They spend a little time talking, and this man knows everything about her, including her less-than-proper living situation. Yet, he doesn’t ever judge or condemn her. In fact, he reveals himself to her as the Messiah, and she goes back to the village and shares about this encounter. Through her testimony, the entire village comes to realize that Jesus is their long-awaited messiah.
There was a well of water, a well that tradition held Jacob had dug. It was in Samaria, a territory that most Jews avoided like the plague. Yet, despite the fact that “Jews didn’t drink from the same containers as Samaritans,” the woman was willing to go against the grain of the traditional racism and give Jesus, a Jewish man, some water. Likewise, Jesus offered this Samaritan woman “living water”; it was no longer just for Israelites; all people could have it. (Am I the only one who’s noticed that those who are discriminated against tend to be more open, accepting, and generous towards those who do the discriminating?)
There’s an old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” However, if you make that horse thirsty, then he’ll want to drink. But is that drink available to him once his thirst is whetted?
I wrote last week about our need as moderate Baptists to get out and share our personal faith stories, to tell people about how our respective relationships with Jesus Christ have changed our lives. In short, we’ll make people thirsty. We’ll make them want (hopefully) to have that relationship, too, and to accept the gift of eternal life. But there’s another part to this.
Jesus commissions his followers to “Go into all the world, making disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It’s not enough to share our faith stories, it’s not enough even for someone to say, “I believe. May I now be baptized?” If we are “making disciples,” this means we’re teaching them. Jesus doesn’t tell his disciples to “make apostles,” to make people to go out to evangelize. He tells them to teach his ways to people everywhere. Usually, we draw people into the church to be discipled.
Once they get into the church, though, folks approach these outsiders as “them,” the minority who are worthy of no more than the inferior water fountain. It makes little to no difference that the source of the living water is the same for all people, just like the two water fountains in the picture above are fed by the same pipes. No. Their “sin” is different from ours, so therefore, it must be much worse, and we can’t have those sinners in our church. Those sinners can never be allowed to walk our aisles, sit in our pews, or worship our God. And they most certainly cannot be members with us, share communion with us, or taint the holy waters of our baptistery!!!
If we as Christians are going to say that all are welcome to the Kingdom, then all need to be welcome in our churches. If we are going to claim that God’s grace is for everyone, then everyone needs to be able to come in and receive it. If we are going to share our faith with others, then we must also be willing to share our pews with them. If our churches’ websites and Facebook pages are going to declare, “All are welcome,” then we need to make everyone feels welcomed and accepted. It’s time we stopped putting up barriers to the Living Water, time to make the wells truly equal and separate only for the sake of crowd control. It’s most definitely time to say to all, no matter what, “Come and drink.”