Scratch 'Em Where They Itch
"The Samaritan woman said to him [Jesus], 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)."1
On one occasion Jesus and his disciples left Judea for Galilee. Jesus wanted to go through Samaria as he had some "business" to take care of there. About midday Jesus was tired so he sat down and rested at Jacob's well. He sent all twelve disciples off to get some lunch and, while they were gone, a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well.
Without doubt this woman was the reason for Jesus coming this way. But how could he approach her? For one thing she was a Samaritan and Jesus was a Jew. In those times it wasn't socially acceptable for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan. She also had some personal issues that would make it look rather suspicious for Jesus to be talking to her alone. She had lived a colorful life and had had a few men in her day. Because of this she wasn't accepted by the other town women, so she came to the well alone in the middle of the day. The other women came in the cool of the evening to draw their water.
Imagine the outcome had Jesus approached this woman by asking a question like this: "Excuse me, lady, my name is Jesus. May I ask you a personal question?" And then, without giving her a choice, he asked, "If you should die tonight, where would you spend eternity?"
There are times when it is right to ask such a question, but this wasn't one of them. Had Jesus done that, she probably wouldn't have had the faintest idea what Jesus was talking about and dismissed him as being some kind of a religious nut.
But Jesus didn't approach her with a pat question. Being sensitive to people's needs he knew that this woman had issues. The fact that she came to the well alone in the heat of the day was saying that. Jesus knew the kind of woman she was and that she was lonely—and had been searching for love and acceptance in all the wrong ways and places. He knew that her pressing need was for loving acceptance. And that's what Jesus gave her before ever speaking of spiritual things.
Psychologists say that with the lives we touch we either build a bridge to that person or a wall between us. And Jesus, being a great bridge builder, bridged the great social gap between her and this stranger by simply asking, "Will you please give me a drink of water."
This was the beginning of an interesting conversation. Following a brief discussion about living water, Jesus put his finger on both the need and problem area of her life. Without judging her in any way Jesus told her that he knew she was living with a man who wasn't her husband and that she had already gone through five husbands.
"You have to be a prophet," she exclaimed and then turned the conversation to spiritual things herself. She then got so excited that she left her water-pot behind, rushed back to the town and, in essence, said to the men in her life, "Come with me. I want you to meet a man who told me all about myself with all my weaknesses and he accepted me just as I am. He didn't judge or criticize me. He must be the Christ."2
Jesus knew this woman's deepest need—her need for acceptance—and when he met it, she believed in him and automatically became a most enthusiastic witness.
That's the kind of witness we who call ourselves Christians also need to be. In other words, on most occasions before speaking of spiritual things to people, we need to be sensitive to their personal needs and "scratch 'em where they itch" just as Jesus did—and minister to their deepest need whatever it may be.3
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be sensitive to people's needs, and be 'as Jesus' to them by meeting them at their point of felt need. And grant that they, seeing Jesus in me, will want you for themselves. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. John 4:9 (NIV).
2. See John 4:1-30.
3. Adapted from I Hate Witnessing by Dick Innes which can be purchased online at http://actscom.com/store.