Jesus never avoided the people that needed Him the most. His habit of associating with sinners was considered scandalous by those who kept a close eye on that sort of thing (Matthew 9:10-13). But Jesus didn't seem to mind. Love compelled Him to do what He did. He never seemed to have any hesitancy to keep company with those who might sully His reputation among the religious elite. In Jesus, God showed up where you'd least expect Him to.
The encounter that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well is particularly instructive for those of us who have an unfortunate tendency to avoid the people that Jesus loves. For some reason, it's easy to get caught up in thinking self-righteously and miss an opportunity to interact with someone who needs to experience God's grace. I'm not sure why or how that happens. Some of us may have a hard time letting go of the biases and prejudices we unwittingly hold on to, and in our failure to jettison our own cultural or religious baggage, we forget that Jesus loves sinners, and He calls us to do the same. It was writer Anne Lamott who said, “You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Every once in a while, it's good to remember that it's rarely the respectable religious types who encounter Jesus and walk away transformed; it's always the sinners. It's the tax collectors and prostitutes who are the first to repent (Matthew 21:32). It's stories like the one told in John 4 that remind us that anyone — regardless of who they are or what they've done or what they're now doing — is within the reach of God's grace. Anyone. That's the good news. “For God so loved the world…”
Let's pray that our responses toward other human beings are conditioned by the story of Jesus and not the biases and prejudices we unwittingly hold onto. Let's continue to hope that people will encounter Jesus as they interact with us, His followers. And let's take a step back and ask ourselves the question, “Who would Jesus love?”