We have to drink Water to give water.
October 10, 2011 – Aaron Bird
Sorry for the temporary hiatus last week… we had a somewhat unconventional service (an interactive discussion about some of the fundamentals of Christianity) that didn’t really lend itself to a written format. This week, too, was a little different, so you won’t find the same “Rewind. Pause. Push Play.” segments, instead you’ll just get my take of Bird’s message. This week was about being convicted, being called to action. This week was about sacrificing for the good of our brothers and sisters around the world who are dying each and every day. This week was about drinking Water so we can give water…
Nobody likes infomercials. They’re long, they’re overdramatic, and they’re always trying to get you to do something… usually that something is “Call right now to place your order and receive our special bonus prize!” To make matters worse, the product they’re selling is typically unnecessary, overpriced, and poorly made. Nobody likes infomercials because they attempt to trick you, and sometimes guilt you, out of your hard earned cash.
You know what people like even less than infomercials about the latest and greatest quadruple-use kitchen appliance? Christian infomercials. You know the ones I’m talking about – there’s the guy or gal dressed in a simple pair of shorts and old t-shirt holding the most adorable child ever standing in the middle of a dirty, dusty street asking you to please do for the least of these. Now, it’s not that we, as viewers, don’t support the mission of the charities behind these advertisements, nor do we aim to scoff at those among us who choose to pick up the phone and donate the much needed funds to drum up food, medicine, and clean water for our brothers and sisters in need. Quite to the contrary, we’re all for someone else answering the call to make a sacrifice on the behalf of a stranger, and we’re definitely all for Christians, in general, stepping up to change the world. Yep, we’re all completely, one-hundred percent on board with sitting in our living rooms and praying for Christians to become the active hands and feet of Christ all over our broken world. And yet, whenever those commercials come on, most of us promptly change the channel. You see, the problem isn’t that we’re against the vision behind these Christian infomercials, it’s quite simply that we don’t like feeling convicted.
The trick there, of course, is that if are seeking to live our life apart from conviction by avoiding it at every possible turn, then we can’t really call ourselves Christ followers, can we? After all, everything Christ does convicts.
So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. John 4: 3-4
Looking at a map, this journey makes sense; of course Jesus would go through Samaria to get from Judea to Galilee – it’s a straight shot. But, culturally speaking, this was a radical concept. No Jew chose to go through Samaria; instead, if you wanted to go north from Judea, you first went east, crossed the Jordan river, then traveled north, then crossed the river again and went west until you reached your destination. The Samaritans were half-breeds, social outcasts, a constant reminder of a violent, shameful past (when the Asyrians invaded, they killed many of the Israelite men, but kept and copulated with the women, creating a new cultural mix of people, with whom the Jews did not associate).
The significance of Jesus’ choice to go through Samaria has less to do with correcting nonsensical travel habits and more to do with irradicating hateful, divisive social prejudice. That, in and of itself, ought to be convicting. There are plenty of people we avoid on a daily basis because they seem “less-than” the kind of people we think we should be hanging out with. Who are the people in your life that you avoid? Do you do so because being with them leaves you feeling just a bit dirty? Do you think that’s what Jesus wants you to do? Where or who is your Samaria?
Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” John 4: 6-7
Once again, to our twenty-first century minds, this doesn’t necessarily strike us as odd, but, again, this was a big deal. It was high noon when Jesus and the Samaritan woman were at the well together… no one drew water at high noon! They’re in the middle of Samaria, which is a hot, dry country, and noon is the absolute hottest part of the day; typcially, women would only make the trip to and from the well in the early morning or the evening hours, when the sun was less harsh. Also, they would generally go in groups to pass the time and strengthen community. The only reason, then, that this woman would be at the well at noon would be if she were a social outcast, either forced out or too ashamed to join with the other women.
Also, Jesus is a Jewish man talking to a shamed Samaritan woman (three strikes against her, by the way), and He’s asking her for a drink! Jesus, a Jewish man and the one, true God, is asking this poor, wretched woman for a drink. Jesus doesn’t hesitate or avoid; He doesn’t avert His eyes or maintain a holier-than-thou attitude (despite His having every right to do so). No, instead, He acknowledges her presence and strikes up a conversation. He validates her existence.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you Living Water.” … The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4: 10, 15
The Samaritan woman probably would have benefited from reading through a written transcription of this conversation, especially if it included the tell-tale capitalizations. Here you have yet another example of Jesus’ wondrous rhetorical skill – His incredible ability to manipulate words and stories so that they take on ground-shattering significance. When Jesus makes mention of this Living Water (which He later explains would forever eliminate her thirst), He is no longer speaking of water (H2O); He’s speaking about Himself. She, of course, doesn’t understand – how could she; this is a pretty radical concept. All she’s thinking about is the hours she spends each day walking to and from the well just so she can draw water; how tired she is when she reaches home again; and how she has to do it all over again the next day. When she asks Him for “this water” she still thinks He’s talking about liquid water – that He’s got some sort of magic, self-replenishing water that will get rid of her lonely, shameful journeys to the well.
We know, of course, that the water Jesus is speaking of is not liquid, but grace, and the life it brings isn’t corporeal, it’s spiritual. Jesus is the Living Water, and those who come to know and trust in Him will never thirst again – they will be eternally satisfied.
The woman said, “I know that Messiah [called Christ] is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.” John 4:25-26
She’s not disagreeing with what Jesus is saying, she just doesn’t understand. She’s confused and probably feeling a bit convicted (because Jesus did just finish calling her out on her five husbands), but she’s not willing to act yet. Instead, she simply repeats what she already knows to be true: The Messiah is coming and He will explain everything when He gets here. He’ll tell me what to do and how to live and where to find this magic water. He’ll make it so I don’t have to live under this shame any longer. Jesus listens patiently, but when she’s finished speaking, He wastes no time in setting her straight: I am that Messiah, and I have explained it to you. I am the Living Water; I can make it so you are never lacking again.
Are you lacking? Do you have the Living Water?
We have a water crisis on our hands. For most of us here in America, living in the twenty-first century means having indoor plumbing, satisfactory sanitation systems, and clean water at your finger tips, but to many of our brothers and sisters in other countries, ‘the twenty-first century’ has little baring on the modernization of their culture. In countries like Rwanda, women walk, on average, three miles a day to get water for themselves and their families, and the water they get isn’t even clean. That means two months of these women’s lives each year are spent transporting water. This substance is supposed to be life sustaining, but, instead, it often brings sickness and death. So, why go to all this work? Well, it’s obvious really; because you need it. Without water, people die.
Over 884 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, and 5,000 children die each day due to water related diseases, many of which are completely preventable. The question, then, is this: Would you dink this water? If not, why should they?
So, why do we have a water crisis? Because we have a Water crisis. Everyone is thristy for something, and everyone spends painful hours toiling away trying to find the thing they believe will relieve their thirst. But if we only had Living Water, we would never thirst again.
Read that again slowly: If we only had Living Water, we would never thirst again.
What I mean to say is that if we have Jesus in our lives, we are never lacking. He always provides. Our cup is always full. Even when we don’t see it that way. He provides for all of our needs, physical and spiritual (like it says in Matthew 6, if He takes care of the wild flowers and the birds, how can we not trust that He will take care of us all the more?). And, as if that idea isn’t radical enough, I believe that if we have more Jesus in our lives – if we welcome Him in and allow Him to reign over all our thoughts and actions – we can irradicate physical thirst too.
Each year, 2.2 million people die as a result of contaminated drinking water; that’s 20 jumbo jets full of people that effectively crash. Each day. If those were literal jumbo jets, people would be up in arms across the world; there would be committees and civil action groups working to prevent the tragedy from continuing; there would be groups of people claiming a conspiracy. There would be an overwhelming sense of conviction. We would want to act.
We need to act. Real people are dying. This is not a joke or an exaggeration; this is reality.
We have a water crisis because we have a Water crisis. Followers of Christ are changing the channel, averting their eyes, avoiding Samaria, and refusing to acknowledge a world of people strugglilng to survive. We need to start watching those Christian infomercials and embracing that feeling so similar to guilt and calling it by its true name. We need to be convicted. We need to follow Jesus’ example and walk to the well in Samaria, sit down beside it and meet people there. We need to drink Water to give water.
At the well is where the world changes; it’s where sanctification, justification, and transformation happen. Life happens at the well, but it’s messy, which is why we’d rather sit on our couch or in our pew and say a silent prayer rather than taking action.
You will never be held accountable for the number of bible verses you committed to memory or the number of worship songs you sung. But you will be held accountable for what you did, or didn’t do, at the well. You are here for such a time as this – there are no more excuses. Take action. Drink Water to give water.
Join the 10 Days Campaign. Across the nation, college students are giving up all drinks other than water for the next 10 days (Oct. 10 – 19th) and donating all of the money they would have spent to Living Water International, which will take the proceeds and build wells in Rwanda, providing thousands of people with clean, safe drinking water. Be a part of the change.