We know who we are quite well. We understand what being human is all about. But, do we know who God is? Do we know what God cares about?
As human beings placed on this earth, we know that we are capable of great things, but we are also capable of terrible things.
We escaped the gravitational pull of the earth and placed a man on the moon. Amazing. But, we did it in the context of nations battling each other, saber rattling, trying to prove who was worthy of controlling the world. Not quite amazing.
We show compassion for dogs who have been abandoned, left without food, and have a righteous anger against those who would neglect them in such a way. Compassionate. But, when neighbors are struggling and are hungry, we question whether they are hard workers and question whether or not they deserve the gift of food. Not quite compassionate.
As I said, we know who we are. We are people who strive to make our nations fair and equal in all ways, but still seem to create barriers for groups of people to overcome.
The disciples were no different. One day they came upon Jesus having a deep theological discussion with a Samaritan woman, which in a world where all things are equal should not have been a shocking sight However, this is not a world where all things are equal. In the real world, the disciples questioned in their minds why Jesus was wasting his time talking with a woman...who was from the hated region of Samaria no less.
Like the woman from Samaria, sometimes we are forced to suffer through terrible things. And, that suffering can lead to the ability to endure through hardships. And that endurance creates a sort of character in us that does not give up in times of struggle. And that character creates in us a hope for the future, even when reality seems to say that a good future seems unlikely.
This kind of suffering makes me think of a couple of coworkers that I read about recently.
The male coworker had top marks in sales in his firm, and his female companion just did not seem to be able to complete the deals in an equal amount of time. She always took longer. He always assumed that, though she was good, she simply was not as efficient as he.
One day, the male coworker accidentally started a sale under his female coworker's email address, and he discovered something that opened his eyes. When they thought they were talking with a woman, the clients were rude and did not inherently trust anything he said. He had a hard time closing his deals under his female coworker's name and email address.
The woman, on the other hand, had a great day of sales logged in under his name and email address.
The female coworker had assumed over the years that all of her hard work and abuse was just a part of the job. The suffering that her job put her through produced endurance, and the endurance turned into character, and the character contained hope for moving up in the company.
One could argue that the character she developed through all of that hard work and abuse is a good thing. Even if that is true, she should have never been required to suffer all of it in the first place.
We strive for an equal world, but as all of the women reading this already know, it is not an equal world. The whole situation is all too human.
We know who we are as humans. We know that we can do great things, but we also know that we somehow are able to destroy our greatness with inequality, lack of compassion, and plain old evil. None of this is surprising. We already know all of this.
So, the questions that remain are: Who is God? What is God like? Does God look a lot like us? Is God fashioned in our own image? Does God also require lots of hard work, lots of character forming, in order for people to be acceptable and loved?
Paul answers with question quite simply: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
Lots of people would go to any length to save a family member or friend. But, who puts their lives on the line for their enemies? Who saves people while they are still entrenched in their evil ways? What superhero, at the end of the movie decides, “I guess I will just give up and die so that Dr. of Evil, can live?” Who does that?
While we were still sinners (while we were still being quite human, with all of our faults and inequalities) Christ died for us that we might find life.
In God’s world, we do not need to prove ourselves worthy. Instead, God declares that we are already worthy. No proving of our worth is required.
You are already worthy of love. You do not need to prove anything in order to be beloved.
This may not mean much to the people of the world who are given all of the privileges in life.
It does mean a lot to the woman who has to work hard and endure suffering every day just to get an ounce of basic respect in her job. That woman is already loved by God. No prior proof of character is required.
It means a lot to the woman who Jesus met at the well. She normally came to draw water in silence, and did not expect anyone to even acknowledging her existence. That woman discovered her worth the day she met Jesus. She discovered that she was already loved by God. No prior proof of character was required.
It means a lot to those who have messed up in life and struggle just to get food on the table. God has already fed them with love and mercy. No prior proof of character is required.
God may have come down in the flesh to walk as one of us, but Jesus is not like us. Jesus does not require us to scrape a good life together first before he will even think of showing us any kind of mercy or love. Instead, Jesus pours the waters of life out from his well and baths us in his grace. The waters of new life wash over us as a refreshing gift in a dry world. No prior proof of character is required.
This Spirit of love is what pours through you this day. It is the liquid love that pumps through your veins as you go out into the world and encounter the woman at the well and the hungry families. It is the love that flows in stark contrast to stagnant waters of the world that requires goodness in order to receive goodness and love in order to receive love. It is the type of refreshing, unconditional love that is able to save the world.