Jesus went out of his way to meet an unnamed woman, commonly known as the woman at the well or the Samaritan woman. When telling the story, John wrote, “(Jesus) had to travel through Samaria” (Jn. 4:4). Except, in one sense, he didn’t. To take the route he chose, Jesus went out of his way to travel through Samaria. “Had to travel” meant he made an intentional choice to go where she was, to meet her on her turf. Jesus knew a lot about this woman – including the time she would come by the well (“noon” – Jn. 4:6), her checkered marital history (“you’ve had five husbands” – Jn. 4:18), her current immoral lifestyle (“the man you now have is not your husband” – Jn. 4:18), and the curtain of religious confusion she used to justify her behavior (“our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews say the place to worship is in Jerusalem” – Jn. 4:20). Despite knowing these intimate details, there’s no mention in the story of Jesus calling her by name. Yet, she is one of the most famous women in Christian history and a timeless example of Jesus going where people were to connect with them.

Once the woman at the well professed faith in Jesus, what she did next is instructive for all Christians—no matter their previous religious beliefs, cultural prejudices, marital history, or moral behavior. The woman “left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They left the town and made their way to him” (Jn. 4:28-30). As a result of her witness, “many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of what the woman said when she testified, ‘He told me everything I ever did’” (Jn. 4:39). Ultimately, “many more believed because of what he said. And they told the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of what you said, since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world’” (Jn. 4:41-42). Immediately after her encounter with Jesus, the woman at the well went to her village and testified about him. Her story was so compelling people sought Jesus and believed in him. An unnamed woman became the impetus for the good news of Jesus being shared among the Samaritans.

All Christians, not just a spiritually elite few, have the privilege of sharing the gospel with other people. While some will be better at it than others, no one is disqualified because of perceived limitations or past lifestyle choices. The woman at the well had several strikes against her—she was a multi-divorced, openly fornicating, Samaritan woman. That’s quite a resume! Yet, once convinced of Jesus’ identity, she became a messenger of grace and hope back to people who knew her well.

This is the genius of God’s plan for sharing the gospel through everyday believers with everyday people. Christians come from every walk of life with every conceivable sin and shortcoming in their background. Rather than hide those scars and experiences, they go among people who are like they used to be before becoming believers. Bikers go to bikers, executives go to executives, cops go to cops, moms go to moms, and on and on and on. Rather than homogenize believers by leaching out distinctive differences, God uses all kinds of Christians to reach all kinds of people with the gospel.

The gospel flows more naturally through affinity relationships. God needs shadow Christians sprinkled throughout every community. God is looking for Christians who will go out of their way to interact with unbelievers, not shun or avoid contact with them. Jesus modeled doing this. You must follow his example.

Summer blogs are excerpted from my book “Shadow Christians: Making an impact when no one knows your name.”


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