There are lots of places where we don’t want to go for one reason or another. Many of us avoid certain areas of town due to certain perceptions. Others of us avoid traveling to certain countries or regions for political, medical, or even religious reasons. And lots of us avoid certain stores due to social stigmas.
And, to get a bit more personal, some of us avoid certain individuals because they are hard to get along with.
But what if those places we’re avoiding are just the places where we need to be? What if they are the places that God wants to send us to grow us and to use us for his purposes?
This reminds me of an experience that my wife, our friend Judith, and I had in Cambodia.
We were on a prayer journey. Our mission was twofold: 1) We wanted to prayer for missionaries that we partnered with; and 2) We wanted to pray on site in the most significant areas of need.
So while we were in Cambodia we went to pray with and for some of our friends there. On one occasion while driving, I asked that we be dropped off in the most dangerous area of Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. This particular area was overrun with brothels and human trafficking. It was heart-rending, deeply depressing, and emotionally heavy.
Our friends who were with us in the car didn’t know that we were going to be dropped off at this particular location. When the car stopped they were shocked! They couldn’t believe that we would willingly stop there and prayer-walk back to our hotel.
Apparently, this area of Phnom Penh was a place to avoid — a Samaria.
Why Call It a Samaria?
Why call this part of Phnom Penh a Samaria? And why would we call other places, things, and people we avoid Samaria also?
Read these words from John 4.4:
Now he [Jesus] had to go through Samaria.
You may be thinking Well, that made things as clear as mud!
Let me explain: Samaria was directly between Judea and Galilee, the two places Jesus was traveling between. Many first-century Jews would avoid Samaria altogether by skirting around it, lengthening their trip to a great degree.
They did this because for many first-century Jews, people who lived in Samaria were considered half-breeds who were unclean and to be avoided.
Jesus, however, had to go through Samaria.
But he didn’t! He could have followed suit and took the circuitous route around Samaria like so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters did.
But Jesus had to go through Samaria.
In order for the Father’s purposes to be fulfilled, Jesus had to go through Samaria.
In order for Jesus to exhibit full obedience to the leading of the Spirit, he had to go through Samaria.
And in order for him to show respect and love to someone who was very marginalized (a sexually deviant, woman from Samaria), Jesus had to go through Samaria.
We should expect no different as we follow this same Jesus who had to go through Samaria. He’s still going through Samaria today. The question is this: Will we follow him?
Will we follow Jesus through Samaria?
Will we seek for the Father’s purposes to be fulfilled by going through Samaria?
Will we exhibit full obedience to the Spirit’s leading by going through Samaria?
And will we extend ourselves sacrificially toward the marginalized by going through Samaria?
Honestly? Probably not.
We all, myself included, will likely continue to do what is expected of us. We’ll skirt our ways around Samaria. We’ll avoid those who are different from us. We’ll exclude those who are difficult relationally. We’ll do everything in our power to never step foot in certain areas, regions, countries, or even continents. We’ll continue to overlook the overlooked.
We’ll probably avoid Samaria.
But we shouldn’t!
Here’s my challenge: Where is that place that causes avoidance to creep up within you? Go to that place, asking God to teach you and use you there. Who is that person or type of person that you’d rather just avoid instead of treating like a human. Seek them out and begin a new friendship.
We must go through Samaria.
If we follow Jesus, do we really have a choice?
What do you think? What or who or where is your Samaria? Let me know in the comments below.