I, William Henley, originally published this on 14th October, 2017 on my personal blog. Sadly, it is an issue that keeps coming back up in the church. I felt it was time to share this to a larger audience.
This is a topic that has been going through my mind for a while. I knew it was something that I needed to write on, but had to give the topic time to form into something more in my mind. What are the focal verses? What are the stories I am going to tell? What ties them all together?
We are going to cover a few stories in the New Testament, at least one parable (possibly more if I get on a roll), but the focal scripture is going to be (drum role please) 1 Corinthians. Man, I come to this book a lot. Many of us could quote the 13th chapter. It is quite popular to read at weddings. For a refresher, let’s cover it (yes, the entire chapter – its only 13 verses).
1 Corinthians 13 (New Living Translation) – If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
It should be obvious why these verses are so popular at weddings. The problem is, most of us don’t apply these verses at all to our lives OUTSIDE of marriage. Look at these verses again? Is there anywhere that says this is for your spouse? In fact, there is a key word used in each of the first three verses – “But didn’t love others!”
In Luke chapter 10, starting in verse 25, a man comes to Jesus asking how to inherit eternal life. Jesus then asks him a question – “What does the Torah say?” The man responds with the Shema, which comes from Deuteronomy 6, and is repeated in chapter 11.
וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃
V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus quotes this as well when asked what the greatest commandment is. Also, it should be noted, and this is what is key, that both Jesus in Matthew 22 and the man in Luke 10 both follow this up by saying the second commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). The man in Luke then asks “So who is my neighbor?” Jesus then launches into the famous story of the Good Samaritain.
Let me paraphrase this. A man is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and gets mugged, beaten, and left for dead. This is very important to the story. A priest and a temple assistant both pass, see him, and step to the other side of the road. Why? The answer lies in Numbers 19.
11 “All those who touch a dead human body will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. 12 They must purify themselves on the third and seventh days with the water of purification; then they will be purified. But if they do not do this on the third and seventh days, they will continue to be unclean even after the seventh day. 13 All those who touch a dead body and do not purify themselves in the proper way defile the Lord’s Tabernacle, and they will be cut off from the community of Israel. Since the water of purification was not sprinkled on them, their defilement continues.
So, if the two men were to tend to the man, and he was indeed dead, they would have been defiled, would not have been able to enter the Temple, would have had to be excommunicated from the community for seven days, and had to have gone through purification rituals. And if for some reason, they were not able to do the purification ritual on the seventh day, they would have been forever excommunicated from Israel, and never able to enter the Temple again. So, in a single act, they are cut off from everything and everyone they know, but also lose their relationship with God.
It is no wonder that they didn’t tend to the man.
However, the man was not dead. He was left for dead. Without help, he would have died. However, from the other side of the road, he would have appeared dead. Then a Samaritain comes along. The Samaritains were despised by the Jews – they were considered to be half-breeds, interracial, impure and unclean. The Samaritain sees the man (who is obviously a Jew if he is traveling from Jerusalem), and has mercy on him, tends to him, then takes him someplace where he can rest and be looked after.
Then Jesus asks “Now which of these three would you way was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”
The man cannot even bring himself to say the word Samaritain, and responds “The one who showed him mercy.”
You see, both the priest and the temple assistant both followed the law. Their theology was correct.
Now let’s look at John 4. It says that Jesus left Judea (which is where Jerusalem and Bethlaham are) and returned to Galilee (where his home town was). Verse 4 says he had to go through Samaria on the way. This is very important – NO JEW went through Samaria. Remember how much the Jews hated the Samaritans. They would go AROUND Samaria. Yet Jesus had to go THROUGH Samaria. Why? For a divine appointment.
When he reaches the village of Sychar, which was near the field that Jacob’s Well was, and was near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph, he comes up to a woman. First, we have the shock here that this Rabbi would have come up to a woman, and even more so, a Samaritan. This is not a parable, this actually happened. Let’s read this set of events that happens here.
John 4 (NLT)
Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). 3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.
4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
9 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?”
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”
27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him…
39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” 40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. 42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
There are several key, important things that happen here. First, the Samaritain woman is the first person Jesus ever says “I am the Messiah!” to. Second, he says that while Salvation in the past has come through the Jews, in the future, the Father will extend salvation to anyone who wants to worship him. But third, and for the topic of this blog, he gives the woman a chance to lie when he says “Go and get your husband”, but the woman is honest and says “I have no husband.” Jesus already knew this. He said “Yes, you have been married 5 times before, and you are now living in sin with a man who you are not married to.” Yet Jesus continues to talk to her. This is the woman he reveals himself as the Messiah to. Jesus extends kindness to her when no one else would.
This event is just one of many examples
John 8 (NLT) Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Luke 5 (NLT)
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
I recently heard a pastor tell a great story about extending love. He was meeting with guests after service, and a lady came up to him. She leaned in close and whispered “I’m a lesbian. Am I going to be welcome here?” The pastor embraced her and said “absolutely you are welcome here, and we will accept you here. But you must understand that I also have personal convictions that I believe line up with the Bible, and its possible I might preach on it someday, and if I do, I ask that you extend to me the same understanding and grace that I am extending to you.” So the lady started attending, and a few months later gave her life to Christ.
I have seen the ugly side too. Recently, a Christian celebrity took to Twitter during a reality show about a transgender teenager, where he tweeted out (paraphrased) “Interesting, a reality show about a non-reality.” Needless to say, people took it as a Christian cyber-bullying something he didn’t agree with.
I have seen “Christians” protesting outside of other churches, “Christians” take to social media and blogs to condemn other Christians whose belief they don’t agree with.
Aren’t the very people you are labeling as “sinners” and condemning their lifestyle the very people we are trying to reach? Why then are you approaching them with hate? It is awfully hard to talk about the love of God and His mercy and grace with someone who has only experienced hate and condemnation from those whom call themselves Christians.
Brennan Manning is known for a very famous quote – “the greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Philip Pullman, a very vocal agnostic, said, “In my view, belief in God seems to be a very good excuse, on the part of those who claim to believe, for doing many wicked things that they wouldn’t feel justified in doing without such a belief.” In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Pullman also states “But if there is a God, and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down and rebelled against. As you look back over the history of the Christian church, it’s a record of terrible infamy and cruelty and persecution and tyranny. How they have the bloody nerve to go on Thought for the Day and tell us all to be good when, given the slightest chance, they’d be hanging the rest of us and flogging the homosexuals and persecuting the witches.” And on Philip Pullman’s website, he states, “I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away. Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it’s because he’s ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I’d want nothing to do with them.”
Pullman makes a fantastic point, which goes back to Brennan Manning’s quote – The reason that many people are against Christianity is not because they are against Jesus’s teachings – the reason they are against Christianity is because of the way Christians act! Not all, but aren’t those who are the most visible the ones clinging to their Bible, screaming fire and brimstone on people for their evil deeds? The only Christians they may know may be condemning them for sex outside of marriage, for having an abortion after they were raped, for practicing homosexuality, for having trouble identifying with their birth gender. And yet, none has tried to tell them of the goodness and love and mercy and grace of the Savior. It is no wonder the world turns their back on Christianity.
Is you being right worth costing someone else their soul? Because this is the effect of what our anger and condemnation is having.
I am not saying that Christians should not stand up for their convictions or their religious rights – they should. But we should also be sensitive to those around us who do not share our convictions or religious beliefs.
Everyone knows John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (NKJV).” What is ironic is the people who have this written on signs and stuff, throwing anger at other people. What is worse is that they have completely forgotten the next verse, which is in the same paragraph:
John 3:17 (NKJV) – For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
I am going to conclude with a teaching from the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT) – “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”