He had to pass through Samaria.
—John 4:4

This week we will look at how to become a real influence for Christ in this world. There is one person in the Bible who perhaps, better than anyone, illustrates how to demonstrate deep conviction yet also wrap that conviction in genuine compassion. This person demonstrates how to stay firm in your beliefs but at the same time be soft with people of a different persuasion. Who is it? Of course, that person is Jesus Christ. Jesus, better than anyone, illustrates how to become what I like to call a velvet-covered brick.

In John 4, we read the well-known story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman. It says, “He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria” (vv. 3-4). Now if you’re geographically challenged like I am, that means nothing to you unless you get out a map and see exactly what is happening here. Israel is laid out into three parts. Judea is in the south. Galilee is in the north. And separating Judea from Galilee is a region known as Samaria. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were half-breeds, and the Samaritans hated the Jews. There was a real antipathy between the two groups. But the Bible says Jesus was on His way to the south, Galilee, going up to Judea, and verse 4 says He had to pass through Samaria.

Now geographically, Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria. He could have gone around to the east through Perea. He could have bypassed Samaria if He wanted to. Why would Jesus go into an area populated by people who didn’t agree with Him, who held an opposing theological view? It’s because He had a divine appointment with somebody whose encounter with Him would change her life forever. And that leads us to the first principle of becoming a velvet-covered brick, how to influence our culture. And that principle is we need to engage with those with opposing points of view. We need to not just hang around people like ourselves but be with people who don’t agree with us, who have a different point of view.

Jesus was a fisherman, not just of fish but of men and women. His life mission was to influence people for the kingdom of God. And so Jesus didn’t stay in a monastery for the three years of His ministry, hanging out with His disciples. Instead, He hit the streets. He went to where unbelievers were in order to influence them, and that’s what we see happening in John 4. Jesus goes to Samaria to encounter this woman at the well in order to influence her.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Becoming a Velvet-Covered Brick” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.