I am currently sharing a series of posts on Christ's example of observing needs and then meeting them. To participate in this online discussion, please see my first post of this series with all the information on what to expect over the next four weeks! Feel free to join our Facebook group, as well, where people from all walks of life are joining the conversation.
Firstly, I must warn you all that today's post is long. I wasn't intending it to be, but as I pondered and wrote, more things came to my mind that I felt I needed to share.
Today's example of Christ's example of observing and then serving occurred as He was going about His daily life. It can be found in John chapter 4 in the New Testament. Here is my retelling...
Christ was travelling, as He often did, and stopped to rest at a well. A woman approached the well and we know that He knew her from what He says later on.
Instead of asking her what He could do to help, He requested service from her. The woman thought this very strange, because Jews and Samaritans hated each other. She questions His motives. He responds that, if she knew who she was speaking to, she would have instead asked Him for water. This is the desire of her heart. She asks how He could possibly give her water. He has nothing to draw water from the well, and she queries whether Christ is greater than Jacob.
Instead of being offended, Christ teaches her an eternal principle--that He is the living water that brings everlasting life. This is the desire of her heart, and she requests water from Him. Christ does not immediately give her this gift, though. He requests that she call her husband, knowing she is living in sin. She cannot, and He gives her details about her life to show that He is omnipotent.
The woman then calls Jesus a prophet. Seeing that she is starting to open her eyes to the possibility that He is the Savior, and knowing she is troubled with regards to her worship of God, He expounds more doctrine unto her, reassuring her that she is able to worship anywhere. This comforts her heart even more. She reveals that she believes in a Messiah, and He adds to her knowledge by stating that He is the Messiah.
There are so many things that I have learned from this story. Before I share them, I want to note that this parable is a type of our daily lives. We will not be able to be successful in under five minutes, like the Savior was, because we are not perfect or omnipotent. By looking at each request or question and answer portion of the story as equal to a single interaction with a person, we can see that, for us, becoming perfect at observing and serving can sometimes take time as we build relationships.
The first thing that I learned from this story is that each person is important, and if you help them realize that they are important to you, you will be able to serve them more completely. This is not something that can just be said, and all is well. Making people feel important means asking about them and being good communicators. It is putting the other person before yourself and genuinely caring what they have to offer and share. Getting someone a drink of water was no big deal to this woman, it was who was asking that made the event important. Sometimes requesting service from someone is the way that they need you to show that you recognize that they are needed.
Secondly, we must understand a person's heart and desires before we can meet their needs. Each person has trials, regrets, goals, sorrows, and strengths. By getting to know a person, we will be able to not only strengthen bonds of friendship, but garner trust. This is something that takes time. It also takes consistency. Christ did not get up and ignore the woman during any part of their conversation. True and lasting friendships require continual communication with each other. This means different things to different people, but we should be in direct communication with those we claim to love and want to serve as much as possible, as led by the Spirit.
The third thing I have learned from this story is that people are not sustained on one act of service alone. From my count, Christ performed five micro-services during the course of His discussion with this woman. Five acts of service in probably less than five minutes! If anything, I feel this shows that one act of service is not enough to change a life or a relationship. It may take more than 5 acts, even, but if we act in patience and love, as the Savior did in this story, we can change lives.
Number four is broad, but I'll get more specific in my comments--it is simply "do not judge those you serve." Christ saw into this woman's heart. She was sinning grievously, and yet the Savior never once told her to repent. He showed her who He was, and knew that, because her heart was in the right place, she would repent. Not only does this show that even the Savior sometimes doesn't explicitly call someone to repentance, it shows that He respected this woman's agency. Allowing others to make choices, but to still love and serve them is a hallmark of a Christ-centered life.
The fifth thing I learned is that we never know when someone is ready to hear truth, or how that will change them. The Savior could have withheld His identity because the woman was living unworthily. He did not. We never know what changes can begin in a person's life when we simply share a testimony of a loving Savior or any other truth. These acts are services rarely known as such.
Finally, I love how the Savior ends His conversation with this woman with words of comfort and hope. Service should always be something that uplifts others. Participating in gossip (I'm guilty and working on it!) does not constitute serving someone. Allowing others to share feelings with you is absolutely fine, but leave them better than you found them. Don't malign others in hopes of finding common ground. Relationships built on mutual hatred will never have a strong foundation. Make sure that your actions allow you to feel good about your service.
So, there you have it! I told you it was long, didn't I? I hope that you were able to gain some sort of insight from my ramblings today, friends! Now it's your turn--what aspects of this story inspire you to do better at observing and then serving? I can't wait to hear them in the comments below! If you'd rather, there's a Facebook group designed to continue the discussion for those more comfortable there. Come join us! I'll be back on Friday with my thoughts on the woman taken in adultery found in John chapter 8. Until then, sending hugs and prayers your way! :)