Samaria was not the vacation destination of choice for the Jews. In fact, the Jews had “no dealings with the Samaritans.” (John 4:9) The disdain between the two peoples was longstanding and much of it truly was rooted in the sinful practices in which the Samaritans had engaged over the years. The Jews saw themselves as the superior and holier of the two groups. They wanted nothing to do with their neighbors to the north. And yet in order for Jesus to go from Jerusalem up to Galilee, guess where he had to go? Samaria. He had to pass right through it.
Jesus, however, did more than pass through Samaria. He, the Creator of the universe who truly was holier than the people of the land, stopped and talked with a woman by a well. She was one of those women, the sort that no one wanted to talk to: Unmarried, living with a man she wasn’t married to after a long line of men she had been married to, and most likely regarded by most as a sinner. And yet, Jesus didn’t just have a passing conversation with this woman. No, this conversation and the subsequent events take up forty-two verses. In the end, Jesus and his disciples stayed there for two days! I wonder what His disciples thought of that!
Our Acts 1:8 Samaria may, like the Samaria of the Jesus day, not be a lovely place. It may be a place where most of us have no dealings. And yet, our Savior calls us to go with Him there. Reaching the fatherless, in our culture, often means reaching into situations many of us never want to touch. We don’t want any part of the broken, ugliness of a home torn apart by drugs, abuse, immorality, divorce, incarceration, or abandonment. We don’t want to touch the unclean thing. (2 Cor 6:17)
Have you ever had a problem that you just wanted to ignore? Maybe it was even a big problem like resolving a conflict at work or making some complicated, frustrating home repair. You felt that if you could leave it alone for a day or two, maybe it would go away. Unfortunately, that approach usually makes the problem bigger and more complicated. It’s a little like the video of the woman who has a nail in her forehead. We can talk about it all we want, but until we resolve the problem nothing will change.
In the book of the prophets, the Israelites had a similar problem. They weren’t necessarily doing what God had told them not to do. They weren’t necessarily afflicting the fatherless—they were just ignoring them.
“Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” Isaiah 1:23
In Deuteronomy, God very clearly told His people that if they afflicted the fatherless, He would kill them with the sword. In Isaiah, God calls them out for neglecting the fatherless. He goes on in verse twenty-seven to tell them that “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment.” But just a few verses before this, He tells them the desire of his heart.
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:16-18
Israel had to learn the hard way, but we don’t. Jesus in His concern for the Samaritan woman exemplified the concern, which He wants to see in our lives toward the fatherless and those seeking to raise them. He set the example in the way he cared for the children that surrounded Him during His earthly ministry and His teaching regarding them.
With one word, He paints an amazing picture of what our relationship to these children ought to be. In Matthew 18:5, Jesus said, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.” That little word receive has several meanings. Among them are:
- To take by the hand,
- To receive into one’s family to bring up and educate,
- To take upon one’s self, to sustain, bear, endure.
Sounds a little like caring for the fatherless and a lot like love. (1 Cor. 13:7)
Reaching our Samaria, our people with whom we might desire to have no dealings, may not be our idea of a ‘great ministry opportunity,’ but have we forgotten so soon that without the redemptive sacrifice of Christ we too were fatherless? Have we forgotten that when we minister to the ‘least of these’ we are ministering to Christ Himself? And not only that but it is also the form of worship, which He considers pure!
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
Reaching the fatherless may require us to step outside of our comfort zone—Scratch that, it will require us to step out of our comfort zone. But that is where we come to know Christ. When we follow His leading, we learn more of His heart—a heart that cares deeply for the fatherless.
Are you reaching your Samaria? Are you allowing compassion to move you? Are you following Christ’s example in this area of life and worship? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to obey?
Let us support you where you are! Contact us here to find out more about how you can reach out to the fatherless in your community.