When Jesus was on earth He spent a good amount of time with the religious people of His day. But in one instance He had a journey to make that would pass through the town of Samaria, which was an area of the world that most “religious” people of His time labeled as “unclean” and full of despicable people who weren’t worthy of God’s love and truth. Most religionists of Jesus’ time would have taken a longer route to NOT pass through Samaria, adding miles of walking to their trip, just to avoid this place that they deemed sinful and full of half-breeds.
But Jesus went straight through Samaria. He didn’t avoid it. He got there and had a conversation. The conversation was with a five-times divorced woman, who was likely living with a man that wasn’t her husband. Though Jesus acknowledged this, His big message to her was that He, the Son of God, had come to the earth. His message to her was that He would give her true life and joy that she had never experienced before. He had come for her salvation.
The woman went and told everyone she knew, and before long many were believing in Jesus. Such a crowd gathered that He stuck around for a few days, and many in Samaria came to know Him. This whole story is found in John 4:1-43.
For years, many religious people in America have avoided New England. Some think it’s just too tough of a place to do ministry. And some even run churches in New England, and have a disdain for the culture akin to Jonah for the Ninevites, thinking that the culture of New England is far too distant from God to have a chance to know Him. Churches like this quickly become ingrown clubs for the “holy elite”, instead of what they should be- hospitals for the wounded, hurting and dying.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire is similar to Samaria in some ways. As far back as 1679, it was “a refuge for exiles from Puritan Massachusetts“(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portsmouth,_New_Hampshire) In the early 20th century, it was an area where a huge red light district existed for arriving naval ships, and prostitution was rampant. Fast forward to 2014 and Portsmouth is way different, now it’s a cool bohemian town filled with progressive thinkers, artists and entrepreneurs. But still, many Christians in America would view a place like Portsmouth much like the religious folks of the first century viewed Samaria, as a place where God isn’t as present. After all, He’s more evidently present in places like Nashville, Tennessee, right?
But Jesus is walking right through the middle of Portsmouth, and engaging the hearts of many people. They may not look typical to the religious. But they are God’s very own beloved children who will soon enter into a beautiful, fulfilling relationship with Jesus.
So as we prepare for the launch of NLC Portsmouth, may we ask for God to direct us in the footsteps of Jesus. May we have conversations like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well. May we see those whom the religious would cast out as exiles through God’s eyes- that they are truly beloved and belong to Him.
Hey man, I’m of a “Samaritan” background too! Check out my story here: http://goddrugsandrocknroll.wordpress.com/