When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” John 4:7 (NIV)
This passage from the book of John about the encounter with Jesus and the Samaritan woman sums up the example of Jesus demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit, and the characteristics we have been discussing this past week.
This is a story about Jesus going into Samaria. Samaria is between Judea and Galilee, which are provinces in Israel. Now you need to know that Jews and Samaritans were basically enemies. They would go out of their way to avoid one another, and they had done this for centuries. Jesus, however, needed to go from Judea to Galilee, so he went directly through Samaria. When he stopped to get a drink at about noon, he saw a Samaritan woman at the well, and Jesus approached her. You also need to know that women did not usually come to the well alone at noon, the hottest part of the day. This woman was not a very popular woman in the village. He asked her for a drink of water, and he engaged her in conversation.
The Samaritan woman was a little surprised at this since Jews did not talk to Samaritans, but Jesus persisted. He said that if she knew about all the good things that he could offer to people, what he called living water, she would be asking for those things, and he would grant them to her. She did not really understand what he was talking about, but by now, she was really intrigued by him. She wanted to know more about what he called living water, so she kept talking about the water from the well.
Jesus then said something odd. He asked if she could bring her husband with her to the well. She told him that she had no husband, and Jesus said that he knew that, and in fact, he knew that she had five husbands in the past. Well, she was pretty amazed by the fact that he knew this about her, and she said that he must be some kind of prophet. They went on to discuss religious matters, and they got into a lengthy conversation about the most important things in life.
By the end of the conversation, she had an understanding about the living water Jesus talked about. After their conversation was over, she went back to her village, and told everyone what an amazing man she had just met, and many people decided to consider the important things which Jesus had discussed with the woman.
In this story, I see Jesus demonstrating these principles which doctor Carkhuff stated as important personal characteristics.
The first is warmth. Warmth is effective non-verbal communication. People make a decision, often in just the first minute of meeting someone, before a word is spoken, that a person has warmth. This is done through eye contact, smiles, and engaging gestures. I think Jesus must have done a great job of engaging this woman at the well to get a perfect stranger to talk to him so openly.
The next characteristic is empathy– that is, to be able to see the world through the eyes of another person. This woman at the well was an outcast, but Jesus was able to relate with her. He was also kind of an outcast where he came from. He decided to try to encourage another person who was feeling lonely.
Then we see genuineness. That is another word that I talked about recently- sincerity. Jesus was very open with the woman about who he was, and what he could offer to people, what he called living water. He made no pretenses- he just talked about who he was.
The next characteristic is confrontation. Jesus was able to confront her about her marriage problems in a direct, yet non threatening way. He was able to say the hard things to her without pushing her away or offending her deeply.
Immediacy – This characteristic is the ability to be completely present with another person, with no distractions, and completely focused on the person with whom we are talking at that moment. I think that part of the reason that this woman was so intrigued by Jesus is that he really paid attention to her, and listened to her. This is probably something that she rarely experienced in her village.
The next characteristic is concreteness. By this we mean, the ability to be very clear in expressing our thoughts and feelings; to have a solid fund of knowledge and experience which we can use for the benefit of others. I saw that Jesus was able to translate to this woman some very difficult ideas, just by using a simple illustration which she knew- water. He called his gifts which he would share with her living water.
The next characteristic is self disclosure. This is the ability to relate to another person’s situation through our own life experiences. Sometimes, by sharing our own experiences, we can help others through problem situations. I saw Jesus being able to share things about himself for the benefit of this woman. She had a lot of problems, and Jesus was willing to share some things about himself to help her.
The last characteristic that we see is respect. Respect is defined as having confidence in another person that they can take responsibility for themselves. We do not need to lecture them, or belittle them, or force them to change problem behaviors. Remember, our job is to speak the truth in love, not to change other people. Jesus did not lecture this woman about her problem lifestyle. He respected her too much for that. He simply spoke the truth to her, and she responded when she saw the power of it. In fact, when others saw her as a woman with nothing to offer, Jesus saw her as a potential evangelist.
Prayer: Thank you for the example of Jesus, the one who knows us and loves, Amen