Ancient Israel was was divided into three major regions. Much like the Southern California area in which I live, it was dotted by mountain ranges, bodies of water, and the coast, and these natural landmarks distinguished different parts of the country. In the north, there was the region of Galilee, where Jesus spent a lot of his time in ministry, and to the south there was Judea, which is where Jerusalem and the temple resided. In the middle was a place known as Samaria, which was a mountainous region whose name literally means “watch-mountain” or “watch-tower.” Although Samaria was a natural bridge between Galilee in the north and Judea in the south, Orthodox Jews went out of their way to avoid the area since to them, it was pagan and unholy. Rather than interact with this sect of people, because they had intermarried with foreigners and adopted a number of pagan customs, Hebrew travelers would add days to their journey just to avoid them. That is, except Jesus…
On several occasions, our Savior purposefully traveled through the hated region of Samaria, at one point even stopping at a well to talk to a Samaritan woman. Before He ascended to Heaven, He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” His intentional remembrance makes it clear that the Lord had a heart for this region and its people, because He loves to ascribe dignity to the outcast, even if He doesn’t approve of their actions.
You see, friend, when people have adopted a lifestyle that you know is wrong or that you feel is unholy, it doesn’t mean you should stop interacting with or loving them. Like your Lord, you can march confidently into Samaria and show mercy, compassion, and empathy to sinners without worrying that their choices will somehow get on you. Ascribing dignity to others where they’re at is the first step in softening their hearts and opening their eyes to the goodness of Jesus. Choose to love Samaritans and sinners and you will become a force of healing in a fractured and divided world.