Most Christ-followers want to have spiritual conversations with other people because we believe in what Jesus has done in our life and we want others to experience that same transformation, but we don’t know how it happens. We don’t want to be the crazy guy on the corner with a bullhorn. We don’t want to be the angry guy that writes letters to the editor. We don’t want to be the creepy guy that starts telling people what to do, and we aren’t really sure what it is suppose to look like. How does it happen?
When we look at Jesus’ conversations in the gospels there are some similar themes captured below:
OBSERVATION: John 4:5-9
In verses 5-9 we see Jesus is having a conversation with a Samaritan woman and with a little observation we can have a great deal of insight into the conversation. She is a woman and it was unusual for men to have a conversation with women. She is a Samaritan which creates some ethnic division between Jesus (Jewish) and her being a Samaritan. In addition, she is drawing water from the well at the sixth hour, which was about noon and it is the hottest part of the day. Typically women would come in the morning to socialize, but as we read the story we see this woman has been through multiple marriages.
Can you imagine the shame of being married and divorced multiple times? Multiple times telling your friends, “This is the one! This time its going to work. This time it is going to last.” Multiple times of hearing someone say, “I will love you forever” and not seeing them follow through on their word. With just a little bit of observation we see a woman carrying a lot of guilt and shame.
INTERACTION: John 4:10-15
When Jesus has a conversation with someone there is not only observation, but there is also…get ready for this, interaction. Jesus is doing something that is really complicated. He is observing the types of people he is with and then he begins to interact with them in conversation. Crazy isn’t it!
Jesus observes the Samaritan woman is carrying a lot of shame and guilt from her background. In the beginning of the conversation she isn’t really interested and even seems a little skeptical because when we have a conversation with someone with a lot of guilt and shame they are going to be defensive. They are going to wonder if you are sincere. They are going to wonder if you really care. The most important thing to remember in the conversation is to let them know that you care. This means we have to listen, make eye contact, and actually care about people :).
TENSION: John 4:16-19
When Jesus has a conversation with someone there is not only observation, interaction, but there is also tension. Most of us don’t like tension. We just want to smile, nod, and avoid tension. Some of us here the word tension and we think it means being a jerk. Jesus isn’t being a jerk. Jesus is creating tension because the Samaritan woman’s beliefs are colliding with His truth and in verse 16 Jesus speaks truth into her life that touches her in the deepest place of her pain. He doesn’t stand at a distance, but instead steps into her pain. That is the hope in the gospel, and when we have a conversation with someone carrying a lot of guilt and shame we get to step into that story with them.
Here are a couple of simple questions to consider when we talk to people coming from a place of shame and guilt:
* How are you coping with the pain? What are you running to as a band-aid? It will last for a moment, but Jesus brings a healing that is eternal.
* What is the difference between guilt and conviction? Guilt condemns and conviction empowers. We need to help people see the difference.