John 4

Countercultural Jesus

 

Teaching through the Gospel of John, I have been dealing lately with some of those beautiful pictures of personal encounters with Jesus. A couple of weeks ago it was Nicodemus and this week the woman at the well. One of the things that I’ve been reminded of again is just how countercultural Jesus really was…and is. Nicodemus might have been considered Jesus’ safe zone. The people we would expect Jesus to reach. After all, at 12 years of age he was already teaching guys like this!

But now he goes way outside what was considered culturally safe in this encounter with the woman at the well.  Jesus started something big with these encounters; he broadened our vision and gave us a model to follow in Kingdom work. And while at times in the Church’s history we have become myopic once again, I’m glad to see that in this generation we are becoming more like Jesus than at any time in recent memory. Here are just a few of the ways that Jesus crossed barriers and broadened our ministry outlook in these encounters:

RACE: Jew, Samaritan, Red, Yellow, Black, White… all are precious in Jesus’ sight.

GENDER: A common Jewish prayer at the time was, “I thank you that I was not born a Gentile, a slave or woman.” Jesus elevated the status of women to a degree that has been unmatched.  Just look at the other major world religions and how they treat women.

MORAL REPUTATION: Nicodemus was relatively morally upright, but the woman at the well was considered immoral. Jesus reaches out to those who think they are good enough to not need Him as well as to those who think they could never be good enough for Him.

SOCIAL STATUS: Nicodemus was socially prominent, but this woman is an outcast. Jesus reaches out to people across the spectrum of socioeconomic status. We all have equal status with Him.

RECEPTIVITY: Nicodemus sought Jesus out to discuss spiritual issues, but the woman at the well is initially indifferent, even cynical. Jesus reaches out to those who are more in tune to spiritual things as well as the “hard knots” who are just struggling with the physical aspects of life.

John 4 provides for us a ministry model established by the Lord Jesus Himself. As we build relationships and “do life together,” I hope we’ll dare to cross our own cultural barriers just as Jesus did… and does.

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8x032One of the really cool ministry times of the year from my international days was Christmas. Small groups would come together to rent hotel space (though it was illegal to worship together) and invite their friends and neighbors to evangelistic Christmas parties. Homemade tracts were crafted and could often be blended in with the commercial Christmas items that were becoming more popular. Perhaps most effective of all were the special acts of service performed in the name of Jesus during the Christmas season. It was indeed a special time of year, even in a place where Christmas didn’t show up on the calendar officially.

When we consider how our small groups can take advantage of the Christmas season, often we think in terms of parties and presents, candy and caroling. The holidays call out for family and fellowship. How can we be evangelistically intentional though during the Christmas season? Beyond the slogans like “Jesus is the Reason for the season,” how do we really communicate the truths of Christmas to those who are outside the family of God? Small groups have the potential for relating what incarnation is all about in a very real way. Rather than looking inward during the Christmas season as we are tempted to do by the cold weather and the family atmosphere, let’s remember what God did. That first Christmas for Jesus was about leaving family and much of what He knew of life in Heaven. He left the community of Heaven in search of us and to relate to us. What are some ways that we can live out His model? I wonder, what are some things that your small group is doing during the holiday season to be intentionally incarnational among a people who really need to know what Christmas is all about?