A Place not so far away called Samaria
SAMARIA Forty-two miles north of Jerusalem and nine miles northwest of Nablus, a hill protrudes from the broad valley which cuts across the central highlands of Israel. Omri, the sixth king of Israel (885-874 B.C.), purchased the hill of Samaria for his royal residence. Shechem had been the capital of the Northern Kingdom until Jeroboam relocated it at Tirzah. Following the Northern Kingdom's fall to Assyria (721 B.C.), exiles from many nations settled Samaria (Ezra 4:9-10). Later, the Greeks conquered the region (331 B.C.) and hellenized the area with Greek inhabitants and culture. By New Testament times, it became identified with the central region of Palestine, with Galilee to the north and Judea to the south.
The name Samaritans originally was identified with the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 17:29). When the Assyrians conquered Israel, only a "remnant of Israel" remained in the land. Assyrian captives from distant places also settled there (2 Kings 17:24). This led to the intermarriage of Jews with Gentiles and to worship of foreign gods. By the time the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra and Nehemiah refused to let the Samaritans share in the experience (Ezra 4:1-3; Neh. 4:7). Therefore, the Samaritans identified Mount Gerizim as the chosen place of God and the only center of worship. The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.
Have you visited a Gay Church? or more politically correct "an inclusive church"?. Few Christians in Singapore do. The majority would make a detour i.e. make excuses eg "they [Samaritans] are unclean", "gay and christian is a contradiction of terms", etc, just like the Jews and the apostles did as one makes a detour to avoid Samaria as they traveled from Judea to Galilee. The animosity was so great that the Jews went an extra distance through the barren land of Perea on the eastern side of the Jordan to avoid going through Samaria. Yet Jesus rebuked His disciples for their hostility to the Samaritans (Luke 9:55-56), healed a Samaritan leper (Luke 17:16), honored a Samaritan for his neighborliness (Luke 10:30-37), praised a Samaritan for his gratitude (Luke 17:11-18), asked a drink of a Samaritan woman (John 4:7), and preached to the Samaritans (John 4:40-42).
In John 4:7, Jesus met a Samaritan woman who was a divorcee. Very gently Jesus initiated the conversation to meet where the woman was. The Samaritan woman was not only physically thirsty, she was spiritually thirsty for the living water (John 4:11). Her religion did not satisfy her. The Jewish Torah not only did not satisfy her, it brought condemnation. If a married woman had sex with any man other than her husband and she was discovered, she would be killed, along with the man (Leviticus 20:10). The Torah calls it adultery when a married woman has sex with a man other than her husband, whether the other man is married or not. The Samritan women was obiously dumped by her 5 husbands. Now living with her sixth husband (although not wed), she is living in sin under the Torah law. In John 4:17,18, Jesus 'outed' the Samaritan women, and when He did so, the subject appears to change to which mountain to worship. It was as though the Samaritan woman was saying " OK, so I am a sinner. Who is'nt under the law. Even Jews are !. So where do I go to offer a sacrifice - to Mount Gerizim or to your mountain Jerusalem?." A trick question no doubt that has invoke many debates. But Jesus's answer stunned her. In John 4:21, Jesus proclaimed the time is coming that sacrifice for sin offerings as part of our worship of God and being accepted in His presence, will not be based on either mountains. "True" worshipers (John 4:23), will worship God in Sprit and truth. In John 4:25,26, the basis and foundation of their worship will be that Jesus is their messiah, their Saviour. Therefore no longer one need to bring the sin sacrifice to either mountain for the laws that we break, for Jesus is our sin sacrifice, the fulfillment of the requirements of the law, the giver of eternal life.
When the disciples arrive and begin to ask questions (John 4:27), the Samaritan woman left. She left her water bucket, no longer content with water that can satisfy her physical longing, when she found Christ who could satisfy her inmost desire for acceptance and unconditional forgiveness of all her sins today, tomorrow and forever - an everlasting life (John 4:14). She went to the city to declare that she has found Christ, the Messiah, who knows all about her sins yet willing to save her and all of them and give them eternal life. No more laws about marriage, no more laws to do this or that, no more abiding by them to have eternal life, no more sacrifice at Mount Gerizim, but to believe and worship Jesus. The truth is all about Jesus. The law is now but the past.
True worship in Spirit, means that our worship is not bounded by our fleshly nature. No longer do we worship God by physically going up to the House of God, offer our sin sacrifice and have the high priest enter into a physical place in the Holy of Holies where the presence of God resides. We commune with God in the unseen Spiritual realm no longer at Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem. Our worship of God are now not bounded by a fixed set of regulations and sacrifices to perform, but is now based on God speaking directly to us what he desires for us to do. It is a much higher calling. Under law the high priest enters the Holy of Holies once a year. Under Grace, we walk and have our being continually in the presence of God. No longer do we need a high priest to talk to God on our behalf. We can commune directly with God.
The disciples who went to buy food at the city, was suprised that Jesus was full. (John 4:32,33). The sharing of Salvation news brought joy to Jesus heart just as if he had physically eaten. It was not what you hear in today’s churches of what you can and cannot do, about the 10 commandments as though denying Christ work at the cross, but it is about Jesus, our saviour. Before He came to Samaria, the religious Jewish leaders have rejected Him in Judea, but now Jesus have had a much better reception of the Gospel. Jesus offered them unconditional acceptance. Religion is the greatest stumbling block for God to move. But in Samaria, the people were so hungry for God as they have been so rejected and despised.
Jesus then turned to the disciples and challenged their prejudice (John 4:35). They have made all sorts of excuses not to witness and minister to the Samaritans. Despite having roam the entire nation, preaching the message of good news, it was the first time they visited Samaria even though it was not far from Jerusalem. Jesus challenged them to see that the harvest of souls were ready. The Samaritans were so hungry for the good news. The disciples will share in the joy, if only they have reached out to the outcasts. They will not even need to labor for the souls, as the Samaritans will be attracted to Christianity based on Jesus death and resurrection. (John 4:36-38). This is the same word of God to Gay inclusive churches in Singapore and in America. Do not "de-gay" the issues says the Lord of Hosts. Do not be ashmamed of ministering to the Gay people nor be ashamed of being associated primarily with the Gay people and being called a Gay church. Our focus is not on ourselves but our focus should be on the harvest. It is a plea from Jesus from heaven, that the harvest is already ripe for the gay people, for the good news of Jesus to be preached. To the mainstream churches in Singapore, the word of God is that they can be many excuses to make a detour pass the gay community, but we need to face our homophobia because we are called to do the work of Christ according to His agenda and not ours.
Gay Churches worship the same religious beliefs as mainstream christianity, just as the Samaritans believed in the same Torah and the Law as their pure Jewish relatives. But no, that was not good enough, because the Samaritans were not born pure. So too are Gays, born different. By the way they were born, Samaritans and Gays are effectively condemned by the rest as being in sin. The Samaritans tried to be accepted by abiding to the same religious practices of the Jews despite these practices being the very motivation and basis of the Jews condemning the Samaritans. So too would Gays bring along their Catholic, Anglican, Charismatic, and evangelical beliefs into their new found sanctuary not re-examining the basis of their faith and forgetting so soon that these very foundations were the basis of the mainstream Christians condemning Gays.
The Samaritan woman bore the brunt of discrimination and prejudice. She was the outcasts of the outcasts, by birth - being a Samaritan, by sex - being a woman, and finally by circumstances being rejected and discarded by various husbands and being blamed for it by religion. In essence, the common denominator between the Samaritans and Jews were the Torah, and in religion was embedded into it condemnation and discrimination ultimately personified by a Samaritan Woman being rejected by her own for being a divorcee. She met Jesus, the personification of God, the love and the Grace of God. When man made laws and rules to reach God so restrictive that no one can abide, meets the Grace of God, it is Grace that prevailed, that melt the Samaritan's heart for it declares a new walk with God not out of following the Torah taken from the Jews, but to worship God in truth, in Jesus, and not a shadow of truth in the Law and the Old Testament, and in Spirit, and not be limited by the boundaries of human understanding and fleshly logic rather than having a relationship with God, abiding with God in the spiritual plane.
Are we as gay Christians willing to re-examine the foundations of our Christian faith whether we worship God in truth and in Spirit rather than being happily entrenched in religious traditions and homophobic inclinations? Our joy as Gay Christians will not be complete until we take up this challenge for the opportunity is so so great and the harvest of gay souls is so plentiful because the mainstream churches have walked passed the gay community just as the disciples would have if Jesus had not insisted visiting Samaria. Of all the people groups, Gays being so despised and rejected will be so open to the Gospel for they are looking for love and acceptance which only Jesus can give. Can you be counted on for the great commission.