How Jesus handled racism, women’s equality, and sin. It’s all demonstrated in John 4:1-42 when he interacts with a Samaritan woman at a well. She was first a woman, second a Samaritan and lastly a sinner. But Jesus invited her into a life changing redemptive relationship.
How Jesus handled racism, women’s equality, and sin. He treated a Samaritan as a person rather than an ethnic group
Racism is not new. Samaritan’s and Jews were two ancient, ethnic groups with a long history of animosity for one another. Although they had a common heritage, Jews considered Samaritans unclean because they were interracially mixed. In fact, some Jewish religious leaders traveled roads that went around Samaria even when the road through it was shorter.
But not Jesus.
He acted like he expected to meet the Samaritan women at the well and was keeping an appointment. And when she arrived with her water container, he initiated the conversation.
She acted surprised in her response that pointed out their differences in gender and race. But Jesus had another conversation in mind. Because his interest went beyond the barriers of race and gender to the barrier that separated her from God.
“If you knew who was asking you, you would ask for living water.”
Now Jesus moves into a spiritual conversation that takes a personal interest in her. Not that racism and women’s equality weren’t important. But that her eternal destination was more important. And it required addressing the condition of her heart.
How Jesus handled racism, women’s equality, and sin. He didn’t address women’s rights, he addressed women with individual respect
Women’s rights were also restricted during the time of Jesus. Women were separated from men in private, public, and religious life. And denied many of the privileges afforded to men. For example, when out in public during the day, women were expected to wear a veil and refrain from talking to men.
It was also common for women to draw water during the morning in groups. Part work, part social time. The fact this woman was alone at midday suggests she was probably a social outcast. But Jesus didn’t let any of that deter him. Because he cared more about the woman’s soul.
And now he had her attention. She’s intrigued but still challenges him. Living water? He has nothing to even draw water from this well. And she steers the conversation back to race by pointing out their common ancestry in Jacob. Although Jesus steers back to the spiritual.
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
And now, the woman’s deep, spiritual thirst is exposed.
“Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
She’s ready to accept Jesus’ offer. But first she must confront her spiritual barrier.
Jesus didn’t overlook sin but offered something better
Jesus told her to get her husband and now she must admit the truth. She’s living in a sinful relationship. And while Jesus does not condemn her sin, he makes her confront it. Because sin was the barrier that separated her from God. And the same is true for you and me.
As Paul points out in Romans 3:23, we are all guilty of it. But Jesus is the solution and the one who presents a better offer. And that is forgiveness and eternal life for all who ask for it.
It’s not specifically stated, but it’s clear the woman was changed by her encounter with Jesus. She excitedly told all the people in town and brought them out to meet Jesus. And many of them believed in him too.
So while racism and women’s equality are both issues that need to be addressed among a long list of others. The one few people want to address but Jesus does is sin. It is the source where everything that’s wrong in the world comes from. And we are all guilty. But will experience forgiveness. When you humble yourself, confess your sin, and ask for it from Jesus.