Samara-Who?

A look at cross-cultural mission.

Jesus commissioned us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Great! Let’s do that!

Wait… these people aren’t like me, they believe different things about life, work, family, politics, food, holidays and more! What do I do? Well, there are a few things we can learn from Jesus and the woman of Samaria in John 4:1–42 about cross-cultural missions. Jesus has an approach to reach people across vast social barriers that we must learn from for us to be able to reach the “ends of the earth.”

John 4:4 “And he had to pass through Samaria.” Um… no he didn’t. Jesus did not have to go through Samaria to get to Galilee from Judea. In fact, almost all Jews went around Samaria, instead of through. So when it says Jesus “had to” this must be referring to a mission that had to be done, not a physical need to get from one place to another. Jesus is on his way to Galilee certainly, but he had another reason for journeying the way he did, that reason was mission. The Jews generally hated the Samaritans and vice versa. The Samaritans are defined as an ethnoreligious group. They were a religious group at first, with Jewish heritage, but over time they became an ethnic group because of the extreme separation between them and the rest of the Jews. Their religious differences were largely about worship location and scriptural differences. They could be defined as a Jewish cult, and many Jews would probably have viewed them that way. In the time Jesus lived, it was full blown ethnoreligious group that Jews despised and avoided. But that didn’t stop Jesus from what “he had” to do. We must see everyone in the world, those near and far as in need of the gospel, no matter how different they are, and whether or not we like them or what they do. What’s interesting about the Samaritans and what we can learn from them is that we don’t have to go far to find people very different from us. There are people with completely different world views and who are a part of very different cultures in your neighborhood. Do you realize the need to go to them?

Jesus has the intent to reach an entire people group, the Samaritans, so what he does, is start with one. This is important for two reasons. First, you need a “person of peace” to reach a new people group. A person of peace is a connector between you and others within that culture. This women though known for primarily the wrong reasons was still known by many. When looking for a connector or person of peace, it is important to find someone with influence or the potential for influence. Paul often did this in his missions; a good example would be Lydia in Acts 16. Jesus approaches this woman at the well in Samaria and supernaturally knows all about her life, this blows her away! He also teaches her about the water of life that can be received through him as the Messiah. This brings me to the second thing we can learn about reaching a people group. Transformation is powerful. She is changed in a moment. She is no longer the same person. When someone is saved, they become a new creature; this is powerful! When others see the change, they become, if nothing else, curious. As the new convert shares of all, HE has done in their life, they become compelled to hear or see what is going on. It only takes one spark to start a fire. Reaching an entire people group may seem like a daunting or even impossible task, so begin with one. From there you are no longer one but two and so forth, the life-changing power of the gospel can and has many times in past, reach an entire people group.