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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Life on the Margins: The Distinctions we Make

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,

for surely your reward is great in heaven.

But (Jesus) had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. ~ John 4:4-19

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3:28

Racism is man’s gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason. ~ Abraham Heschel

The woman at the well had a lot going against her.

She was a woman.

She was a woman who had been with more men than we deemed respectable.

And she was not a Jew. She was a Samaritan, a group which, though not technically a different race from the Jewish people, nevertheless were treated with something akin to racial prejudice.

In short, someone of Jesus' stature would have been expected to take a wide berth where she was concerned.

And yet he met here where she was. He asked for water from her (a huge, no-no. Imagine a white person in 1950's Alabama asking a black person for water from their water fountain). He taught her and offered her eternal life.

Later, the Apostle Paul would break apart the distinctions even further.

Most of the barriers we make are superficial at best. Made-up. Invented. Race is a barrier of social construct, not genetics.

And yet those fictitious distinctions are used in very real, concrete ways and continue to cause enormous pain and harm. Sometime that harm is violence or persecution.

And some times that harm comes from pretending these distinctions aren't still used. We like to think that we really are living into Paul's statement here.

But the reality is that every day we still use made up reasons to judge and marginalize people.

Most folks don't want to think of themselves as racist. Most of us want to believe that as a society we have moved past that. Unfortunately that is a false reality.

The true reality is that there are many still who, like this woman, have been made to feel that they have to draw their water from the well alone, in the heat of the day, rather than at the same, more comfortable, time the rest of the community does.

Questions for thought: How do you feel about where our country is in terms of racial justice? What steps forward - and steps back - have you noticed in your lifetime?

Pray: Ask God to help you participate in helping to bring about a world where there truly is no separation and we are all one in Christ Jesus.

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