John 4: 4- 26

44 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who itis that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

At first glance, this story of Jesus meeting a woman at a well is a beautiful story of salvation.

But when we look closer this account is full of injustices - racism, sexism and discrimination. It’s also a story about how one man’s actions bring justice and righteousness to a whole community.

In a time where it was inconceivable to even think about a Jewish man talking to any Samaritan woman, let alone one with a tarnished reputation, Jesus does the unthinkable.

He walks into the situation, he sits down, he talks to her, and he starts to build a relationship with her.

Again, on first glance this doesn’t look like anything radical. But it is.

This woman was an outcast, the lowest of society. In the eyes of many, justice would have been to put her to death for her sins.

But God’s justice is different.

God’s call to his people through Abraham was to ‘keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.’

The Hebrew words that are used in the Bible for righteousness and justice are Tzedakah and Mishpat, and they often go hand in hand.

Tzedakah is more than just being good. It is an ethical standard referring to the right relationships between people. It’s about treating others as the image of God and with the God-given dignity they deserve.

And although Mishpat can refer to retributive justice, it most often refers to restorative justice - seeking out those who are being taken advantage of and helping them, advocating for the marginalised, and taking steps to change social structures to prevent further injustice.

So justice isn’t always retributive. It isn’t an act of charity. But it does starts with a relationship. Justice and righteousness are a radical, selfless way of life.

Our Salvation Army doctrine book puts it like this – ‘we are to treat all relationships as holy covenants’.

And this is what we see in this story. At a time when this woman was in desperate need of justice in her life Jesus sought her out, built a relationship with her and treated her as a child of God.

And he didn’t stop there. Jesus offered her the most precious gift of all – himself. Jesus declared the woman righteous when she didn’t deserve it. Her response? – to go tell everyone. And the result – a whole town came to believe! All because Jesus walked into injustice, sat down and built a relationship.

Pretty radical.

1Genesis 18:19. 
2The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine, p.197.

Download a printable file here: The Radicalness of Relationship