By PHIL SCHANK
Why we need to walk through Samaria
Mission Mississippi’s slogan for the month is “walk together.” So how are we doing? Are we intentional or accidental when it comes to walking together?
My wife and I moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, about eight years ago. If you don’t know anything about Mound Bayou, it is an African-American community founded by ex-slaves in 1887. My wife and I live counter to what culture would teach, as we are the only white couple in town. I tell you that only to provide context.
Amos 3:3 asks, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” It would be impossible to walk together without some agreement. Walking together would take intentionality and wouldn’t happen by chance. Walking together would force us to walk through and not around.
Walking through and not around allows us to walk with.
There is an interesting story found in John’s gospel in which we see Jesus going “through” and not around. John 4:4 says it this way: “He had to go through Samaria on the way.”
Jewish people normally would not travel through Samaria. They would go around. In fact, they would travel an extra day to avoid Samaria and its people.
Jesus went through and not around. Those traveling with Him had to have been questioning this move.
Walking through is often counter-cultural.
If you continue reading John 4, you find that Jesus meets a woman at the well, and her life is changed forever. You also find that, culturally speaking, a Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman would not have been accepted.
Jesus walked through so he could walk with.
The only way we can walk with is to walk through. If we are to walk together, as the Amos passage says, we have to be willing to walk through.
My wife and I are blessed with many solid relationships. Dr. Larry Haywood is a great example. He’s not only a mentor to me, but really like a second dad. Over the years, we have had a chance to live life together, discuss, debate, and do all of it in love and respect. We walk through, not around.
Mission Mississippi helps us walk through and not around. One particular moment was at their annual conference last year, when my wife and I had a chance to facilitate a discussion with a small, diverse group of high-schoolers. We had rich, deep, honest, challenging conversations in which you could see students’ paradigms shift. If we continue having those conversations, there is great hope for our future.
As a church, you and I can’t walk together without walking through. What does walking together look like? It starts with intentionality. It begins with a heart’s desire to be part of the solution and not the problem. Intentionality leads to conversations, which lead to relationships and prompt us to walk through and not around. The result is walking with and walking together, as Amos 3:3 says.
Comfort is found in staying close to those who look like us, think like us, and have the same beliefs as us. Jesus could have been comfortable and walked around Samaria, yet He had to walk through to walk with.
If we want to walk together, we have to be willing to walk through, and that starts with Christians leading the way by taking the first step. #WalkTogether
Phil Schank is president of C2k Ministries and owner of Philip Brand Studio, which develops branding, websites and design for organizations.