I was reading John 4:6-29. This is where Jesus is in Samaria at Jacob’s well. A Samaritan woman comes up and Jesus asks her for some water. I was reading and thinking how does this apply to modern evangelism today? First in vs. 7 Jesus starts a conversation with a sinner. The Jews felt the Samaritans were not right with God plus Jesus had a little insider information on her life. Regardless, Jesus decided to talk with a sinner. Notice the woman’s response in vs. 9. She can’t believe He is even talking to her. Many non-christians are so used to the dirty looks and lack of care from Christians that they would never expect a Christian to start a conversation unless it was one where the Christian just goes up with guns blazing yelling “you are going to hell.”
That isn’t what Jesus is doing, He is starting a non-aggressive conversation and then introduces God into it in vs. 10 and 14. The woman still isn’t on the same wavelength yet. How could this possibly play out today? Start a conversation and mention how you were thirsty until God changed your life. Now instead of Jesus staying there and trying to drill religion in her head, He turns the conversation to her in verse 16. He says, “Go call your husband and come here.”
I worked with a woman once and she didn’t like me at all. I never knew why, but anytime I talked to her it would be a one word response. One day I decided to ask about her family. The floodgates opened up and we had a meaningful conversation about her family and problems that were there. Afterwards we talked often about her family and children. Sometimes we just have to find a link or a bridge that can start a conversation and build trust.
So the woman responds in vs.17, “I have no husband.” This is where most Christians blow it. This is the part where most Christians slap the sinner in the head with a bible, yell, “That’s right you adulteress and you are going to hell if you don’t repent”, and then shake our heads as the other person walks off in anger talking about how stupid and hypocritical Christians are. Jesus does not take that approach. He compliments her twice on her truthfulness in vs. 17-18. Then He talks about worshiping God. The end result of Jesus’ compassionate way of talking to this woman in sin is that she comes to Christ and brings others (John 4:29).
Yes, sinners, as we all do, have to come to the knowledge that they are a sinner and deserve the punishment of hell, and the only way to heaven is Jesus. However, they have to be prepared to receive that knowledge. We must deliver it in a compassionate way. After all, Peter told us when we explain the hope we have, do it with gentleness (1 Peter 3:15). MSW