My earliest memory with prejudice was from the second grade. One day, my teacher asked the students to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they were older. I, a bright-eyed, naïve little chap, drew a picture of myself as the President of the United States of America. My teacher took one look at it and said to me, “You’ll never be President with your last name, sweetie.” Bam! Just like that, the dreams of a seven-year-old were crushed, and I didn’t even know why. I didn’t understand why Saavedra was so offensive to the American people that it would keep me out of the Oval Office.
For those who don’t personally know me, I’m a blue-eyed, fair-skinned Cuban. As people find out I’m Cuban, the first thing I usually hear is, “Wow, you don’t look Cuban at all!” This always puzzles me. I wonder to myself, What is a Cuban supposed to look like? Is there a type? A Cuban mold I don’t know about? But, because of my upbringing, I’m so deeply Cuban to my core—my parents hardly speak English, we ate rice and beans every day, I knew about Jose Marti before I knew about William Shakespeare—that I’m “too Cuban” to relate to my non-Hispanic friends. For years, I felt out of place with everyone, because I’m “too white” to be Cuban, but “too Cuban” to be white. Where was I supposed to fit in?
As I got older, I came to realize that my experiences with prejudice—things like being asked what kind of tacos Cubans like, or where in Mexico is Cuba located, being told that I talk funny, or even being told I could never be President—are nothing compared to what many other people face every day. These offenses are so minor and miniscule when you see the atrocities that have been committed against people because of things like skin color, gender, lifestyle, religion, heritage, parentage, and so many other things.
Prejudices and God
Since the days of Cain and Abel, mankind has found more ways to create division, elevate themselves at the expense of others, stir up hatred, and make others feel less than human. This unmitigated and reckless hate stands in complete and utter opposition to the truths of God’s Word. This illogical mentality of prejudice is an insult to the Lord, the One who created the universe. It has no basis in truth; it’s a lie from the enemy and an immensely effective tool he’s used for wrath and ruin. And what’s even worse, is that so many people throughout history have committed this atrocity in the name of God! This not only baffles my mind, but it actually makes me angry.
How could someone read the words of Jesus, see the manner in which He treated those who were different than Him, those whom society had deemed lesser and unworthy, and still espouse such hatred? How does someone reconcile Luke 6:31, Mark 12:30–31, or Matthew 5:43–48 with this mentality? And yet, as crazy and diametrically opposed as it seems, it still happens every day!
And for thousands of years, the Jewish people have been constant recipients of this. Dating back to their time in Egypt, the Jews have experienced injustice, slavery, and hatred. Sadly, though, they weren’t just on the receiving end of the hate. For centuries, from before the birth of Christ even into the time of His ministry, the Jews held extremely derogatory prejudices against Gentiles (often referring to them as “dogs”) and even more severely against Samaritans.
Jew and Samaritans: Common Ancestry, Bitter Enemies
According to John MacArthur, “When the nation of Israel split politically after Solomon’s rule, King Omri named the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel Samaria (1 Kings 16:24). The name eventually referred to the entire district, which had been taken captive by Assyria in 722 BC. While Assyria led most of the populace of the ten northern tribes away . . . it left a sizable population of Jews in the northern Samaritan region and then transported many non-Jews into Samaria. These groups intermingled to form a mixed race through intermarriage. Eventually, tension developed between the Samaritans and the Jews who returned from captivity. The Samaritans withdrew from the worship of Yahweh at Jerusalem and established their worship at Mt. Gerizim in Samaria . . . As a result of this history; Jews repudiated Samaritans and considered them heretical. Intense ethnic and cultural tensions raged historically between the two groups so that both avoided contact as much as possible.”
And this continued, as the relationship between Jews and Samaritans at the time of Jesus was anything but pleasant. Peter Williamson Campbell points out that the Jews considered Samaritans as “foreigners and treated (them) like pagans . . . Considered unacceptable and always unwelcome, a Samaritan caused ritual impurity simply by coming into the presence of a Jew. Samaritans regarded Jews as heretics; their Scripture consisted only of the five first books of the Bible.” So, as you can see, Jews and Samaritans were enemies, so much so that Jews avoided Samaria like the plague.
How Jesus Handled Prejudice
This brings us to John 4:4 (NIV), which says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” Technically, Jesus didn’t haveto go through Samaria. F.F. Bruce wrote, “Samaria lay between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north; anyone, therefore, who wished to go from Judea to Galilee ‘had to pass through Samaria’ unless he was prepared to make a detour through Transjordan.” But, due to the feelings Jews had regarding Samaritans, most Jews would have taken the long way to Galilee. Jesus; however, was not the typical Jew, and decided to take the direct route and arrived at Sychar.
I don’t want you to gloss over this, because it’s so profound and powerful. This entire passage is so essential to our view of all people and our understanding of humanity for so many reasons! In this chapter, the Lord Jesus shatters any and ALL arguments of racism, prejudice, and bigotry toward anyone. He makes them all obsolete! You see, the majority of Jews would have never asked a Samaritan for something (for risk of ceremonial pollution) and were even less likely to ask a Samaritan woman—with a woman the impurity was a certainty.
None of this meant a thing to Jesus. Why? . . .
Because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).
Because “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35 ESV).
Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV), so “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NLT).
And most importantly, because “you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26–28 NLT).
We’re all the same before God; we are all equal at the foot of the cross. No one is better, higher, more evolved, or superior over anyone else. In fact, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10 NIV). Jesus died for all of us, because we are all rare and beautiful treasures in the eyes of God. He loves us all with an everlasting, unconditional, inextinguishable love! Jesus came for everyone—man, woman, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Arabic, European, African, Indian, Jew, Greek, Samaritan, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, gay, straight, transgender, old, young, rich, poor, slave, free, Pharisee, tax collector, and/or prostitute.
As His conversation with the Samaritan woman continues, and He uncovers the deepest parts of her life, the woman begins to wonder, to hope. So, in verse 25, she speaks of the coming Messiah. And Jesus responds by proclaiming Himself as Messiah. Did you know that this Samaritan woman was the first to hear Jesus declare Himself as Messiah? This is a truly significant moment in the Bible. Miracles are one thing, but a Messianic proclamation is truly game-changing. I can’t imagine this woman ever expected to meet the Son of David, the Savior face-to-face. She had no idea at first who it was that asked her for a drink of water, but then she understood how He could make a claim that made Him greater than Jacob, because it was God in the flesh who sat by the well and spoke so compassionately to her.
Friends, the ramifications of this kind of proclamation were enormous! The Messiah had come to a non-Jewish town, inhabited by the enemies of the Jews . . . and it was here that Jesus first proclaimed Himself the Anointed One of God, the Savior of the world. Before the enemies of His people, Jesus demonstrated in no uncertain terms that He had truly come—as He told Nicodemus—for all who believe in Him, to save the world, not just the Jewish people. By bringing salvation and reconciliation with God to the Samaritans, Jesus showed that He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, which stated that through His seed all nations would be blessed.
I think we can all admit we’re guilty of prejudice, of some level of racism or bigotry. And my prayer is that we would look at Jesus, put on His heart, take our thoughts captive to His mind, and see things through the lens of the Spirit within us. Your neighbor may look different than you, but in the eyes of God, you’re the same. Your enemy can be your brother, your foe can be your family, your opposition can be your co-heir!
When we were God’s enemies, Christ died for every single one of us. He doesn’t discriminate, for any reason, and neither should we. So, brothers and sisters, fellow Christ-followers, let’s commit to putting an end to the prejudice that plagues our world. Let’s commit to embracing the love of God for everyone and live it out as fully and fervently as we can!
If you have questions, please e-mail me.