Anybody raised in the church is familiar with the account of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well. Several weeks ago, I was mulling over the passage, and these verses struck me – not like a slap between the eyes, but a kiss on the forehead, or a gentle hug from behind.
Jesus saith unto her, ‘Go, call thy husband, and come hither.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said unto her, ‘Thou hast well said, I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.’
It wasn’t what Jesus said that struck me – it was what He didn’t say. When I look at myself with critical eyes (and whose eyes are not critical, when turned on oneself?) I see every ugly, dark thing I’ve ever done, and the darkness in my heart hisses, Look what you’ve done. Look at all of this. Look at every time you made God unhappy. How could you? How dare you? How is this in any way forgivable? How dare you try and move past the sins you’ve committed?
And yet, Jesus does not say this to the Samaritan woman. How dare you, how could you, I’m so disappointed in you, you are no child of mine. He says none of these things. Condensed, in modern language, He says,
Yeah, you’ve had five husbands and you’re living with another guy out of wedlock.
And then what does He do? He moves on. Why? Because her sin is not the point. It’s not what He cares about. He cares about her soul, and He proves it by sharing Himself, His truth, with her. This is love. Love does not dwell on the disappointments or the failures. Love acknowledges the times you fall down, and it lifts you up, dusts you off, and sets you in the right direction.
The Samaritan woman’s sin was why Jesus was there, but not so He could drag the skeletons from her closet and display them in the center of town. He was there to remove her sin, to forgive her mistakes – not to condemn.
I remind myself daily (sometimes by the hour, sometimes even by the minute) to emulate Jesus, to imitate Him more and more, as He tells us to do. But if He tells us to follow Him, to imitate him like a wide-eyed child imitates a parent, doesn’t that mean we should look at ourselves as He does? Acknowledge our sins and flaws, as He does – and move past them, as He does? Because our sin is not the point.
His forgiveness is.