16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
A single woman, divorced multiple times, living with the latest man in her life. In the culture of first century Israel she was an outcast of outcasts. Even today there are many who would reject and judge her. What a different encounter she had with Jesus. He not only did not reject her, he actually engaged her in conversation. He treated her with dignity and respect.
Typically we deal in extremes in situations like this. People would either reject the woman or accept he and her lifestyle as being perfectly fine. Jesus did nether of these things. He absolutely accepted her but he also called her life choices into question. He did it without heaping condemnation on her but he did make it clear that her life was not what it could be or ought to be. She knew that was what he was saying, that is why she deflected the conversation. She really didn’t want to talk about her life.
Interestingly, Jesus went with it. He engaged in the conversation she wanted to engage in. He didn’t do it because he didn’t want to talk about her life. He did it because it kept her engaged and allowed that opportunity for further ministry to emerge. And that is exactly what happened. This woman began to feel the love and respect Jesus gave her and as a result she opened up and her life was forever changed.
People often say, hate the sin but love the sinner. Yet rarely to people stay engaged in the relationship long enough for the other person to experience that love. They are already sensitized to being rejected and will sniff out any hint of it and bale. How willing are you to hang in there, over the long haul, with people whose lives are a mess and need Jesus? Do you know how to truly love them while not affirming their poor life choices? The more you watch how Jesus did it the better you will get at it.