Churches and their constituents are bent on maintaining their reputation and pleasing men instead of God. (check out Galatians 1 — this isn’t old news)
If you don’t believe it, just look at some of the names of the most popular churches in the country:
These sound more like corporations or brands than churches. And that’s the general idea.
The concept of church is a turn-off to a lot of people today, so pastors tend to jazz things up in order to woo congregants in the door.
I read an article today that Ja Rule has “rediscovered” God, and that he recently attended a church that made him feel like everyone there was just like himself. He made specific reference to a “disco ball” that captured his attention.
If you come into a church not knowing the Lord, and everyone in the place seems to be the same as you, and it looks like a club you might find down the street, there’s a problem.
In a church like this, you might not find a cross anywhere in the building. You might not even see a Bible opened up. A carefully molded version of Jesus might be represented, but it’s not the Jesus of the Bible.
This omission is because Jesus is generally uncomfortable and inconvenient. He says He is the only way to God. He is controversial, confrontational, and consistent.
He’s also honest. He’ll tell you if you’re in sin, and He will insist that, if you want to follow Him, that the sin must die.
An inconvenient route
Jesus took the path through Samaria, a territory between Jerusalem to the south and Galilee to the north. It’d be like a political liberal taking a stroll through Texas wearing an Obama sticker.
The path that Jesus took was uncomfortable, both here and thereafter on the cross. He never took the easy way, because His chief concern was taking the right way and the most effective route.
An inconvenient discussion
Jesus strikes up a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Don’t forget, this is a Samaritan, who was ethnically opposed to the Jews, and a woman, a subordinate gender in a patriarchal society.
She’s also a social outcast. In the midst of a discussion about water (which Jesus twists into an important truth about Himself), He asks her to call her husband, knowing that she had none, and that she had been married several times. People today would call her promiscuous, in the most pleasant terms.
This portion of the conversation is important, because it allows the woman to confess an aspect of her life that she finds shameful. This is a painful process, both for Jesus, because He certainly has compassion upon her, and for the woman, who is put in a position of revealing an ugly sin.
An inconvenient solution
In other situations — most memorably in the story of the adulterous woman — Jesus would perform a miracle or forgive someone, and then tie off the scene with a succinct command: “Go and sin no more.”
In this case, Jesus leaves this part off, likely because the woman is well aware of her sinful behavior and requires no correction. But He makes one more “inconvenient” correction:
“You worship what you do not know.”
There are thousands of people in America going to church every Sunday, enjoying sweet tunes and an inspirational message from their pastor, but never knowing who they’re worshiping besides a God of their own contrivance. There are thousands more who have “found their own way” to God, but are far off from the truth the Bible reveals about who He is.
This woman has — literally — a face-to-face encounter with the Lord, and He tells her what’s up. He doesn’t say, “I love you — keep doin’ you, and I’ll pray for you.” He tells her what the problem is: she’s worshiping someone she doesn’t even know.
A convenient truth
Jesus reveals Himself as Lord just before the woman departs. Her response is one of great joy; she can’t help but take it to others.
Many people are waiting to see Jesus for who He is. Surely many may not know. I believe there are millions of Americans that have distorted ideas of who God is, both from the way God has been portrayed through their peers and through the misrepresentation of Him in churches nationwide.
But many are aware. We must be willing to do what’s inconvenient in response to passages like this, to take a route that makes you uncomfortable, to be willing to listen, and to tell the truth.
We are the vessels, and we have a responsibility. Let’s do it.