During a time of protest, unrest, and wakefulness of the Black American experience, my friends have been asking me, “How are you doing?” I’m the daughter of a woman who lived through the Civil Rights Era and a mother of children living in what will be known as the Black Lives Matter Era. I’ve experienced racism and discrimination, both covert (systemic) and overt (personal). I’m sad to say I’ve also experienced it in the last place I expected, the church.
Unfortunately, discord among races is nothing new. One of the most recognized biblical examples is between the Samaritans and the Jews. When the Assyrians conquered Israel, they brought with them foreign wives and false gods, resulting in mixed-race people and their gods. Because of this, the Jews considered the Samaritans unclean.
Although they were different, the Jews and Samaritans did have something in common: They were descendants of Jacob. The community well, purchased by Jacob for his son Joseph, was located on the outskirts of Samaria. It was the place where the Jews and the Samaritans went to retrieve water, however, rarely at the same time. The Samaritan woman’s race wasn’t the only barrier during Jesus's time; it was uncommon for Jewish men, especially a Rabbi, to have an open conversation with a woman.
In John 4:7, Jesus asked a Samaritan woman drawing water for a drink. In verse 9, her questioning response to Jesus’s simple request reveals she was taken aback. She knew how the Jews felt about the Samaritans. Jesus, however, didn’t allow their ethnic and gender differences to hinder His ministry. He didn’t let racial and gender bias or social norms stop Him from meeting the spiritual needs of others.
Jesus demonstrated that we are to reach out to those who are different than us. He displayed the gospel is for everyone. All humans are deeply loved by God and made in His image. Under Christ, we are all united; there is no distinction of race, gender, or status in the gospel. (Galatians 3:26-28)
As many of us experience the divide happening in America and places around the world, we’re called as followers of Jesus to enter into relationships that may not come effortlessly. We need to knock down barriers and endure awkwardness or unease for the sake of the gospel.
I challenge myself with the question, how uncomfortable am I willing to be for the Kingdom of God? What about you?
If you have a hard time making relationships with people who are different ethnically or racially, what has hindered you?