“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him…..
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.” ~ John 4: 27 – 30, 39 – 41
One of the first sermons I ever preached was on this passage. I paid particular attention to the historical context and painstakingly pointed out how Jesus broke multiple levels of societal barriers to interact with the Samaritan woman. Indeed, in the gospel of John, story after story draws us to the margins to be challenged by who Jesus chose to engage.
As I reflect again on this story, I find myself drawn to the woman’s words, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” In a few short verses, this phrase is repeated and attributed as the reason others in the village believed in Jesus.
Being fully known is a deep longing we have – though some of us have learned to erect self-protective walls to the extent that we are disconnected from this intrinsic desire. To be both fully known and fully loved seems a dream – a rarity most of us only hope to experience.
But somehow, this Samaritan woman seemed to have felt this in her encounter with Jesus. If she had only felt fully known – she would have likely felt exposed or humiliated. But though she felt fully known – she also felt fully loved and accepted – such that she would run back to the village, forgetting her water jug and failing to bring water back for her household. It was something extraordinarily good that she encountered – or she would have had no reason to excitedly testify that she encountered someone who “knew everything I ever did.” If it was only about knowing everything she’d done, the woman would have had nothing worthwhile to testify about. The villagers would have just nodded, muttering under their breath that the whole village knew everything she’d ever done. She was that kind of woman. The kind that people assumed they knew all about. For a rabbi to perceive what kind of woman she was would not have moved them to any sense of openness to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. There must have been something extraordinary about the woman’s countenance as she relayed her experience to those who had likely gossiped about her and shamed her in the past. They must have noticed a shift – a sense of confidence perhaps, maybe she seemed finally at peace, or simple joy may have emanated from the one who typically avoided social interactions (afterall, why else do you go to get water in the heat of the day?).
Being fully known and fully loved changes us. It transformed the Samaritan woman to such an extent that the villagers believed her testimony about as radical an idea as meeting the Messiah.
No one should be excluded from this kind of transformative encounter! That’s why it is so crucial that our LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ be fully known and fully loved in communities of faith. For too long, church people have been like the Samaritan villagers – assuming they know everything about “the gay lifestyle” or other generalized stereotypes.
But I testify to the profound encounters that I have had with LGBTQ+ followers of Jesus who embody the truth that they are fully known and fully loved. It has changed me – to encounter their confidence, the peace they have, their joy. When someone has encountered Jesus, when someone knows they are fully known and fully loved, you can tell. And it will change you.
In your own faith journey, when have you most felt fully known and fully loved?
Who in your life embodies this reality most? How do you feel when you are in their presence?
What barriers get in the way of experiencing that consistent sense of being fully known and fully loved? Take some time of silence to name them in God’s presence.