The staff will be posting reflections every Friday throughout the Lenten season. Michael Bond continues our series by exhorting us to enter into one another's stories as we follow the example of Jesus.

Isaiah 2:2 “In the last days of the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills and all nations will stream to it.”

Daniel 7:14 “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” 

I share both Chinese and European Caucasian ethnicities. Culturally, I identify with my Chinese background a bit more since my grandparents, my cousins, and much of my extended family are from my Chinese mother’s side of the family.  I celebrate my ethnicity and my unique genetic makeup that comes with great cultural reward and responsibility, but my background does not save me. Only Christ through his death and resurrection has made that possible for us to have an eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father. His sovereignty, however is exemplified through the awesome diversity of his people. The many different languages, backgrounds, and ethnicities that make up God’s people are representative of the great influence His spirit has over this world. Jesus asked His followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).  This is a call to go and proclaim the gospel to a variety of communities. We need only to look at the face of our own church at Jacob’s well to experience a very real sample of God’s infinite reach and power.

Psalm 9:9  The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

When Jesus met with the Samaritan woman at the well, it caused a lot of social controversy even amongst his own disciples. This woman, a Samaritan, was of a mixed ethnicity and considered to be religiously foreign to the Jewish people. Jesus however, breaks through this social barrier of prejudice in his interaction with the woman. He takes the time to speak into her story, to offer her salvation, and then to send her out to tell others of His arrival into this world.  God often turns the expectations of the world upside-down. He chose someone who was considered to be a foreigner by the people of Israel and a woman (whose word would not have been trusted) to be an evangelical agent in her community. In Acts Chapter 8, Philip, Peter, and John would go straight to Samaria to preach the Gospel to the people there. The common social prejudices against the Samaritans were dismantled by Christ’s love towards the woman at the well and many more believed as a result of her testimony.  

Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. 

1 Timothy 6:17-19 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 

When we think of what it means to be rich and to be poor, we usually associate those terms with financial gain. Wealth however, can have a variety of forms.  In the natural make-up of every society, there usually exists a dominant culture. We can think of that dominant culture as possessing the most wealth in “privilege.” A member of a dominant culture will not experience prejudice the same way as someone who identifies with a less dominant culture. The Lord calls us to take up one another’s burdens.  We are called to stand by those who are oppressed and to be generous to those who are in need. We are also called to love our neighbors well. How do we do this? In this context, we are to lay our comfort in commonality down, for the opportunity to learn about another’s differences.

Jesus himself, compared the woman at the well’s daily routine to eternal salvation. He could have announced Himself as God in the flesh, but instead He sat with the woman and shared with her the way to eternal life as it related to her personal life. We can build lasting relationships with one another by taking the time to learn and to value each other’s stories. We do this not so we can boast in our own knowledge of the world, but we do this so we can boast in the eternal and profound love that Christ our Lord has for us. Let us equip ourselves by listening to one another’s stories and building relationship with one another. Instead of listening to our own story on repeat, let us step boldly out of our comfort zones and into the lives of those who might want to share a new story with us. Let us have compassion on those who are oppressed and take up their burdens upon our shoulders. Let us tremble with awesome reverence at the God who’s reach extends to all cultures, tribes, and nations on the face of this earth.