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Welcome to the third installment of The Well, based on John 4 where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. If you are jumping into this series mid-way I suggest you go and read John 4 for context as well as read our previous articles (You Are Invited to Sit With Jesus & Emulating Jesus When Approaching Race + Social Justice).
To continue diving in deep with this series, we are going to look at Sin today and focus on the reality and truth that LOVE conquers Sin, AND that LOVE (Jesus) has already conquered Sin… for good.
Unfortunately, that won’t be the case until Jesus returns. Until then, it is our job to recognize Sin in our life and use it as a reminder that we need Jesus. To do our best to walk in the ways of Jesus repenting along the way when our actions and thoughts might lead us astray.
A quick distinction between Sin and sin before we go on. ‘Sin’ relates to the posture of our hearts. ‘sin’ relates to our words, thoughts and actions.
In our story, Jesus is quick to get to the woman’s heart and calls out her sin (having multiple husbands) in a way that doesn’t heap shame on her, but rather highlights her brokenness in the hopes that she would let Him heal her and bring her into right relationship (John 4:18).
I would testify that our willingness to admit that we are sinners has become harder for us to do. We can find ourselves looking around at all the BIG sin problems of the people around us yet we ourselves are laced with jealousy, comparison, pride, self-sufficiency, etc. We must be bold and courageous as we inspect the conditions of our heart so that we can accept that we are sinners, and allow the Lord to come in and help us get back into right relationship with Him. In addition to that, we also need to welcome the Lord into the “ugly” places of our hearts so that we can let go of all shame and anxiety because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).
Have you ever thought about how crazy it is that Jesus called out the sin in the woman’s life which led her to go back to her people joyfully confessing to those who knew her best? Stranger still is the reaction of those the woman tells – they run to be exposed by Jesus!
And to those questions, I would answer Love! And again, I write ‘Love’ and not ‘love’ to create a distinction between our heart posture (Love) and our actions (love).
The woman could tell that Jesus’ Love for her was authentic and real, which meant His love (His actions) carried a weight of safety and trust which allowed her to run back to her town and tell them what happened because her life was truly changed because of the power of Jesus’ Love.
Making the distinction between someone’s heart posture and their actions is the cornerstone of Love because it allows you to be patient and kind, without envy, boasting or pride (1 Corinthians 13:4), but this is hard to do until you know what kind of love you’re expected to give.
And it can be even harder to understand what type of Love you are to give since in the English language we only have one word that holds the many different meanings for love. For example, where I am from (England), you can tell what part of the country someone’s from by what they call a bread bun (e.g. a cob, bap, barm, batch, bread roll, etc). Ps. I call it a bun 🙂
So the English language doesn’t help us out with the word Love, but the Hebrew and Greek words do!
In the Bible there are five Hebrew and Greek words for love:
Have you ever read 1 Corinthians 13? It is a chapter all about love. The love that chapter speaks about is Agape, a love that is based on the needs of the person receiving it and not on the one giving it. Agape is not preferential treatment but rather the idea that “because I honour you, I will love you.” Additionally, Agapo is how God’s love for us influences the way we treat each other, not because the other person deserves it but because God has commanded it:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” – 1 John 4:7-8
Wow, that’s a heavy statement right there. John is creating a distinction between simply loving God and actually knowing Him, and sadly, the way we love others often shows that we are living like Jesus’ groupies rather than His disciples. I see this clearly in John 4: although the Samaritans were not part of God’s chosen people they still knew Him and followed the teaching of the Torah, so they knew the commandment of “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18), yet treated this woman in such a way that she would rather do manual labour at the hottest part of the day than go when it was cooler and risk running into people.
As a sociology major, my studies have left me with an interest in people’s lived experiences. When reading this story I can’t help but ask questions about this woman’s life and wonder how her experiences influenced her behaviour the day she met Jesus.
Humans haven’t always been blessed to get water 24/7 from a tap. In fact, many parts of the world still don’t have this luxury. In Jesus’ time, water was collected from a communal well and you needed a bucket, rope and pitcher to get water from the bottom of the well and take it home with you. This was straining work that had to be carried out daily. However, I’m sure seeing your friends and neighbours at the well every morning made it more enjoyable!
It’s logical to think that collecting water was an early morning activity, not just because it was cooler then, but because so much of our morning routines like cooking and bathing require water. This makes the woman’s choice to come at noontime all the more puzzling. Why was she willing to suffer the heat and risk running out of water in the morning?
I think, more than anything, the woman wanted to be alone, which was why she was so eager for Jesus’ water so that she wouldn’t have to come back to the well and face the people.
Under Biblical law, divorce could only happen if a man divorced his wife, and he could do this if “[she became] displeasing to him because he [found] something indecent about her” (Deuteronomy 24:1). The law didn’t offer women any protection from their husbands by stipulating what legitimate marital displeasure was, and once a woman was divorced she was left without income, a home or protection, and experienced stigma and shame. The woman at the well had been labeled “indecent” by every man she’d looked to for protection and love, and she lived in a society that did not recognise her without a man to speak for her. She would have no choice but to keep remarrying and hope that this time would be better. But this wasn’t something that she did in private. No, divorce was a community affair that happened in front of the rabbis and neighbours. Everyone in the village would know why each of the woman’s husbands had divorced her and I’m sure it had often been the topic of conversation at the well.
They can be quick to gossip and slow to compassion, and it’s often worse (instead of better) amongst people who’ve lived together a long time. I consider gossip a Sin because it doesn’t seek to build people up, but tear them down.
James 1:26 says that “those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” When we gossip we are not only tearing people down but we are also giving Jesus cause to say “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws” (Matthew 7:23, NLT).
But perhaps the villagers didn’t think that they were gossiping? Maybe one villager was relaying the woman’s latest bloody divorce to another villager because they wanted “advice” on how best to help?
Or maybe they were talking about the woman out of concern?
Perhaps, they blamed her for each divorce and were discussing what fault of hers they should pray for first.
We who are convinced of our righteousness can be very unforgiving to those who know that they fall short. That’s why I think the woman went to the well at noontime; she didn’t want to be reminded that she was displeasing and unsatisfactory.
As Christian women, I’m often saddened by how we treat each other especially when one of us has fallen into sin. Instead of rallying around that person and loving them, we isolate and condemn them, leaving them to drown under a sin they’ve shown they can’t carry on their own.
Stories of church hurt are not rare – I have stories, my friends have stories, I’m sure you have stories – yet, redemption stories are less frequently heard. Why is that?
Proverbs 10:12 tells us that love covers up all sins. This time we are called to Ahab love, which is born of an intensely close and emotional bond. Ahab is used to describe the love Abraham had for Issac and the love we have for God that leads us to follow His commands. It’s also the word used for “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). Ahab reminds us that sacrificial and obedient love has the power to loose the chains that bind us and set us free, and in the context of Proverbs 10:12 it tells us that ‘love pays the price for sin.’
Proverbs 10:12 reminds me of Golgotha where Jesus hung between two criminals and asked God to forgive us for our sins; it reminds me of Jesus’ command “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
Sin is strong because it led Jesus to the grave, but Love is stronger because it gave resurrection life.
People do things in the name of “love” that can hurt others and make them hesitant to be “loved” again. This is true of when we (with the best intentions) try and love someone out of their sin without following the lead of Holy Spirit; we can be overbearing, in a hurry, or invite guilt and shame, which makes the object of our love retreat further into their darkness.
When Jesus told the woman about her marital history she acknowledged Jesus as a prophet but she still tried to retreat and distract Jesus by asking a question. Jesus easily could have ignored her question or denounced her as a sinner evading redemption, but He went with it and used this neutral ground to answer the question she truly wanted to ask; “Jesus, how can I make this inner pain stop?”
In that moment, when the woman looked upon her Saviour, I believe she was healed of her pain and was brought into forgiveness. And I believe part of the proof of that is in her first decision to go and tell the people she was avoiding about Jesus. There were probably several reasons why her community didn’t deserve to experience the healing she’d just received, but those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:47).
The woman’s community wanted her to live an outwardly more righteous life but it wasn’t until the woman met Jesus that they learned that transformation couldn’t happen “by power nor by might, but by [the] Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).
As God’s children are we confident in His sovereignty?
Do we have assurance in the overarching power of Love that covers our sin and sets us free?
Do we believe that Godly love really is the antidote for our broken world?
Are we willing to be ambassadors of Love?
Friends, my prayer is that we will not allow fear to place Sin above God. May we stand in awe of the power of the cross and be reminded that Jesus’ cry of “it is finished” resounds through eternity right into our present situations.
We are praying for you that the enemy will not get in the way of you doing what you need to do to accept Jesus’ relentless love and forgiveness.
You are LOVED more than you can ever fathom.
Rhesa has always loved words; she was never one of those kids who wanted to be in the great outdoors but could always be found curled up with a book. As she got older, she started writing poetry and songs, and fell in love with words and the God who formed them. Rhesa is passionate about the Word of God and how it leads us into deeper revelation of Jesus. Her prayer is that as daughters of God, we would use the Word as a weapon against the lies of the Enemy, use it as a mirror to see His beauty nestled deep within us, and come into the authority and inheritance that is ours through Christ Jesus
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