I taught Sunday on the first part of James 2. So, like a good Bible study teacher, I started preparing at the beginning of the week. As I read the first verse, I knew I was in for a challenging week. “…Don’t show favoritism.” Not, “try your best to treat everyone the same.” Or even, “I know some people are different and annoying but give it a shot.” Nope, James just jumps right out and says it: “Hey, Christian, stop playing favorites.”
I had several in-my-face opportunities to practice what I was going to preach during the course of the week. I did well on some tests; okay on others. More than anything I was reminded at how exclusive even we as believers can be. Ouch! Basically, the summary of the lesson was/is ‘don’t play favorites with God’s love. He doesn’t, and we shouldn’t either.’
One of the gals who attended the Bible Study continued to process the passage as she did her quiet time the next day. She started with this passage:
So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. – John 4:40
She then wrote:
I read this passage this morning through the filter of yesterday’s lesson. Obviously associating with Samaritans (let alone staying as their guests for two whole days) would have been damaging to Jesus’ reputation in many ways, but he did it. I can imagine that the disciples were extremely hesitant – maybe even grumbling because of Jesus’ desire to truly invest in these people. After all, He’d done His duty (according to the way my mind works, anyway). He’d spoken to the woman at the well. Most Jews wouldn’t have done that. If I’d been in Jesus’ shoes, I’d have walked away feeling pretty proud of myself. He’d shared the Truth with her, and she’d gone in to town telling people she thought she’d found the Messiah. He could have been done there, and two thousand years later, we’d still be talking about what a good guy Jesus was.
But He didn’t stop there. He stayed with the Samaritans for two days. This blows my mind and challenges me to look at the James passage in a whole new light. I’m not supposed to tolerate people I find difficult. I’m supposed to LOVE them and spend time investing in them. Forget feeling good about myself for smiling and having a thirty second conversation with them about how their day is going. I’m supposed to invest in them. Ouch. But the next two verses in the passage cast a new light on things and make me understand why it’s all worth it.
And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” – John 4:41-42
Because Jesus spent the two days in Samaria, “many more believed.” They moved beyond faith because of what someone else told them and into a belief based on experience with the Savior. This is my prayer for people with whom I come in contact. Rather than having a brief encounter with me and thinking, “What a nice girl,” I want people to see Jesus and be challenged to have their own real encounter with Him. This doesn’t happen when I deem to speak to someone whom I find annoying. This happens when I invest in people and share life with them.
This made me smile on so many levels: 1) someone actually thought about the study after it was over; 2) someone found a connection in another part of the Word; and 3) God takes our feeble efforts and multiplies them as He sees fit!
Who do you need to be a little nicer to today? And who do you need to invest in? If you fast forward to the end of the ‘favoritism’ passage, you see this amazing promise: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” So dish out some mercy today; it wins!