In Jesus’ day, there was a strong divide between the Israelites and the Samaritans. We can see this by the fact that the Gospels have multiple references to it, including the parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. In that time, Israelites took extra effort to travel around – not through – Samaria, to avoid mixing with the people.
A modern equivalent could be the divide between Irish Catholics and Ulster Protestants. We Americans know about The Troubles, the violent conflict punctuated by bombings and assassinations carried out by the more extreme elements of both sides. But even those who may not ever never have taken up arms can still have prejudices and anger toward the other group. A friend of mine grew up with such a mindset. His family would never travel through the Republic of Ireland if they could avoid it, even if “avoiding it” meant hundreds of extra miles. If they had to go to the Republic for any reason, they packed a lunch, topped up the gas tank, and brought supplies with them to ensure they wouldn’t have to give a penny to the Irish. This animosity, this distrust was centuries in the making, but it was very personal to them.
Still, God’s work cuts through even divisions so strong as that. Today, this friend not only lives in Dublin, but he works in ministry to the Irish. Not only ministry, but very personal, relational ministry. He is a part of the community in a way that no outsider should be able to be – especially an outsider with his background. And he’s been at it for years, with no sign of slowing down. His story amazes me, as only God’s sanctifying work could bring about such things.
Words are powerful. One of the most powerful in the life of a Christian can be “never”. If you’ve started a sentence with “I would never…” or “I could never…”, it may be worthwhile to examine your thinking and motives in it. It’s also powerful because, well, God hears it. And often we find that the very things that we would or could never see ourselves doing become the things for which we have the strongest calling. It’s certainly the case for my friend from the North. It’s true of our family’s call to international ministry. It comes down to trusting: will I trust my own sense of what my life is for, or will I trust in what God has for me?
Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17, from the New American Standard Bible:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Old things, like our prejudices and our “never”s, may not vanish from our thinking, our words, or our actions right away. That brings us back to the processes of sanctification and transformation. But as we seek God, as we grow and mature in our faith, He will work out those areas where our mindset gets in the way. And if He is truly our sufficiency, the baggage we bring into the equation will become of little importance in the light of His work in our lives.
What are your “never”s?