From Outsider to Insider John: 4
a person or thing excluded from or not a member of a set,
Insider: person who is a member of a group, organization, or society, etc.
Who are the people who are on the inside with you? That is who you understand and who you feel safe with because you believe they know you and accept you?
Family, friends, cultural groups, church?
Who are on the outside?
People you can’t understand- different cultural groups- people you don’t know?
So, when we are speaking about insiders and outsiders, we are speaking about the social groups of people whom we naturally are drawn to and where we identify. So, for example I am Christian and a white Anglo Australian woman and I mostly identify with Christian white Anglo- people, particularly women.
So who are your ingroup and your outgroup. We all have them?.
Essentially outside and inside are about relationships.
This story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman, has a lot to say to us about mission as a movement from outside to inside and how relationships grow through faith and how faith grows through relationships.
It begins with two people who are outsiders and ends with both shifted in their place from outsiders to insiders.
It begins with Jesus intentionally moving into a place where he is an outsider. The story says he had to go to Samaria which is interesting because if you check the maps it is a little out of the way if you’re on route from Judea to Galilee. So, what took him there?
The story doesn’t really tell us, but Jesus does say something to his disciples which gives a hint; in verse 34 he said, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”
So, we know then that Jesus had to go for God’s purposes and God’s purpose was for him to meet this woman at the well.
She is there, alone, in the middle of the day. That is enough to say that for some reason she was an outsider in her own community. Women normally in middle eastern culture would go to the well for water in the coolness of the morning or the evening and they’d gather there together. So right away we know she is out of place.
Jesus too is out of place. He is a Jewish male in Samaritan territory, asking a Samaritan woman to break every rule of Kosha by giving him a drink [probably from her own utensil] from the well.
Jewish men did not speak with any woman outside their normal family complex and here was Jesus approaching a Samaritan woman. Samaritans are natural enemies of the Jews.
A clear point on mission, we are all called to walk out of our insider place- the place where we feel safe and comfortable to a place where we are outsiders. That’s what Jesus did and as his disciples we are called to go there too.
Next, he had a conversation with the woman. He was so out of line that she questioned him about what he was doing, but he, in asking for a drink had made himself vulnerable to the other. In Missional community terms, she became a person of peace- or someone with whom he could build a connection. The conversation developed to the point where he revealed his knowledge of her and he fully revealed who he was.
1st of all she was the one with access to the water.
Then, he was the source where she would find living water- ‘the Holy Spirit and the life of God within’
2nd he showed her the fullness of his knowledge about her.
3rd in the argument between the Samaritans and the Jews about worship he revealed that there is a third way through him which makes their arguments empty.
4th he finally spelt out to her that he was the Messiah
‘The woman said: I know that the Messiah is coming, when he comes he will proclaim all things to us.’
Jesus said: ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you’.
At this point in the conversation, Jesus and the woman have moved, they are no longer outsiders to each other, but a relationship and bond have formed, so that when the disciples come they are shocked- Jesus’ behaviour and attitude was not right in their eyes. They thought a lot of stuff and were, in their minds quite critical of him.
The negative response from the disciples is made very clear by the text:
Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman then left, and whatever her status in the town- she functioned as though it didn’t matter anymore because she believed Jesus was the Messiah.
29 “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?”
She was part of his inside group- He knew her: even if the rest of the group didn’t know it yet.
We move from the encounter with the woman to Jesus’ disciples. - they want him to eat something but he tells them that he has another source of food. They of course do not understand- but his source is God and the completion of his mission – his work. He lives for that. He begins to teach the disciples at this point by speaking about the harvest.
Look around you: here in Samaria- not Galilee and not Judea- but in Samaria [the outside place] the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already being paid by a bountiful crop- gathering fruit for eternal life. Bringing people from the outside to the inside of the Christian family. By going out to the outsiders and building relationships which will bring them in.
The woman had spoken to others in the town and they believed her and came and invited him [the outsider],into the town, with his disciples, and he stayed with them, for two days, so that by the end, they were convinced for themselves. Both the disciples and the towns people were now insiders to each other.
When we choose to only relate to people on our inside, and not reach out and go to the place of the outsider, whatever the reason, God has something to say to us.
When a stranger comes into your neighbourhood or into the church, God challenges us to form relationships with them even if they are not comfortable relationships at the beginning. The goal of such relationships is to listen to God’s Word through them and to speak God’s word to them. You never know if you do this whether a whole family or a community may discover through your love and openness the water of life and the bread of life which is fed to us through the Holy Spirit and the life and teaching of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The harvest is there, we just need to walk into the field. And the field is not that far away for any of us.
Harvesting of course is not always that easy either, sometimes it means that our lives will be over-run and things will be forced to change. It’s easy to sit and complain and grumble as the disciples did at first, but what God wants is for us to embrace the challenge of change- to love and welcome the outsider and enable them to become insiders to us, just as we can become insiders to them as well.
The journey is a challenging one- and even in the early church there were arguments about it. Do we expect the Gentiles to embrace Judaism- be circumcised or what-ever? Do we expect the outsider to follow our rules or are there some levels, where we can give way and some areas where we can’t?
This can only come out through relationships and conversation and it takes time to know and understand people who are from a world outside our own. We all need to be brave and we all need to trust God and be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.