The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” (John 4:9)
Read: Deuteronomy 10:1 – 12:32
Relate: The Jew’s hatred of Samaritans was nothing unique. If you look at German’s views on Jews, apartheid in South Africa, or how the Dalit are treated even today in India, you can get a bit of an understanding of the racial hatred involved. The Dalit in India is an especially poignant case because they apply the same concept of being untouchable. According to human rights watch, even though the caste system was officially ended more than fifty years ago, it is so culturally ingrained that even today a Dalit cannot wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, attend the same temples, use the same dishes, or drink from the same well.
They can’t drink from the same well. Sound familiar? This in John was more of a mutual loathing and the Samaritans weren’t as ruthlessly oppressed as the Dalit. They had their own land, they had their own culture, and they committed their own atrocities (they scattered bones in the Temple during one Passover to make it, and everyone there impure). That said, from the time of the Hasmoneans onward the Jews had the upper hand in this rivalry. Jews despised Samaritans. Add to this the the gender bias Jesus being a man and her a woman. Even beyond that, the fact she was at the well at this time of day meant that the other women of this village must have looked down on her. Yet Jesus placed himself in a position of need. He asked her for help. He rolled past all three issues to show her that she had worth.
React: Who are the ones we look down on? Who do we despise? Is it a race? Is it a socio-economic group? Is it those less well spoken or educated? Does it have to do with music or dress? Is it something we have learned for ourselves or have we inherited the biases of our parents? Most stereotypes and forms of discrimination are born out of ignorance and continue because of a lack of interaction. We look down on what we don’t know or understand. Jesus made an intentional effort to cross racial boundaries to show love to those his culture despised. It is not good enough to just not perpetuate racism and discrimination. We have a responsibility, as followers of Jesus, to take an active role in bringing it to an end.
God, forgive me for not doing enough in this area. There are those who are hurting, oppressed, and scorned. It is not enough for me to just not perpetuate the hatred. You came to bring reconciliation and if I am to follow You, I must be actively about doing the same. Help me to be intentional about crossing racial, and economic, and social, and gender divides. Help me to be about showing Your extravagant love to all people of all classes and every culture. You embodied love. Help me to do the same.