We can close a door that is standing wide open if we are not careful. This is especially true of evangelism in this age. Today is a time of chaos. People are divided. They are sinful. They don’t know or care much about religion. Is there any use in trying to convert people in times like these?
Jesus faced many barriers when He taught people. A good example is the woman He met at the well in John 4. Some of us might have written her off if we had been in Jesus’ shoes. We might have said she had too much baggage. But Jesus patiently sorted through the issues and problems and pointed her to the truth.
The first wall Jesus encountered with her was racism. When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, she was shocked and said, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask a drink from me,a Samaritan woman? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9). If we listen to the media, that should have ended any rational discussion of spiritual matters. The conversation would have erupted into accusations and name-calling. It is amazing how well people who are supposed to hate each other can get along when they meet face to face without the instigation of media or government.
Jesus didn’t go down that path. He instead pointed her to a higher road. He taught her about salvation (John 4:10-15).
This woman also had a past. She had been married five times and was living with another man when Jesus met her (John 4:18). The Bible doesn’t tell us how these marriages ended. We don’t know whether these husbands died or divorced her or whether both occurred. But just knowing that she had been married five times and was living with a man might have led us to say there was no hope for her.
Jesus could have ended the visit, but He didn’t. He would not condone her sin, but He also would not dismiss her. He kept teaching her.
Next came disagreement about religion. When the conversation got personal, she wanted to talk about a less sensitive issue. The Samaritans worshipped on “this mountain” (Mount Gerizim), but the Jews said that Jerusalem was the place where one should worship (John 4:20). The Lord didn’t reprimand her for changing the subject. Evidently enough had been said about her marital status. He also didn’t ignore her concern about worship. He told her she was wrong (John 4:22). God chose Jerusalem as the special place of worship (Deut. 12; I Kings 8).
This woman listened to Jesus and told the people of her city about their conservation. Asa result, many believed on Him (John 4:38-42). All this happened because Jesus took the time to speak with one sinful woman who needed direction.