by Wayne Geiger
She was a trophy wife—but always on the lookout for a better display shelf. All the men in town knew her and loved to watch her walk by. All the women avoided her—and kept their husbands close by. She had been married five times and was apparently grooming number six. She wasn’t looking for Mr. Right, but Mr. Happiness.
It was the hottest part of the day, and yet, she came out to the well in her city, Sychar in Samaria, to draw water. Most of the women came to draw water in the cool of the day. It was a social event where they would often catch up on the latest gossip. She wasn’t invited and was likely shunned by the group.
She didn’t know it, but on this particular day, she had a divine appointment with the Son of God. She was His noon appointment that day. Jesus came to the well and asked her for a drink. She was spunky and had attitude. Her response was anything but cordial or respectful. She chided, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” She did have a point.
She was alluding to a long history of hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. At one time, they were one people. But that was a long time ago. It’s a long story of brothers who ended up drifting apart and hating one another. The Jews would say of the Samaritans, “They ain’t like us.”
The short story is, both groups were “sons and daughters of Abraham” and lived together in “one land.” But, tension arose, and they divided into two kingdoms: north and south. The north became known as Samaria and the south, Judah. They were divided by geography and religion.
In 722 BC, Samaria was invaded by the nation of Assyria. Many people living in the north were deported while some Assyrians were brought in to integrate with those who were allowed to remain in the land. Assyria knew that intermarriage would help integrate the people into the Assyrian kingdom and culture.
Fast forward to Jesus’s time and the people of the north had lost their true blood lineage. The Jews in the south considered the northerners “half breeds.” They were half child of Abraham and have other stuff they didn’t like.
There was an incredible amount of hatred, anger, and racism between the two, neighboring communities. In fact, the Jews would do everything they possibly could to avoid walking through Samaria. If Jews had to pass through a Samaritan village, they would literally, “shake the dust from their feet.”
In this beautiful story, Jesus crosses geographical, cultural, and religious barriers to offer this woman, “living water.” After one sip, she was satisfied. And the walls came tumbling down. A loving Father and a good drink have a way of doing that.
We’ve created a lot of great things in America, but as you can see, we didn’t invent racism. It’s as old as man himself and exists in every culture and every people group. We’re struggling with the issue of racism in our country—and have for some time.
For the last decade, I have taught college classes in communication. Every semester, I show Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech which was delivered at our nation’s capital in 1963.
I show the speech because it is masterfully written, is full of emotion, beautiful imagery, and crafted using airtight logic. In addition, the message of ending racism needs to be heard again and again.
I don’t have the space to work through the entire speech, so I’ll hit the highlights. King’s “dream” is founded upon the American dream. It’s a dream of a better life—a better existence—for everyone. The dream is not ethereal and irrational. It is foundational and logical.
King strategically quotes several documents. As a preacher, he quotes extensively from the Bible. He recognized that all people were created in the image of God and have equal value and tremendous worth. God’s desire is that people would love one another.
In addition to the Bible, King references the Emancipation Proclamation stating, “this momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.” One does not throw the term, “injustice” around lightly. To claim injustice means that someone or something has departed from that which is just—or right. His claim is that one-hundred years later, it’s an historical document, but nobody’s doing what it says.
King also references the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents, he said, were designed to be “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I always make sure to point out the financial imagery weaved through the speech because if you don’t understand that, the speech is void of its intended power.
King noted that these foundational documents promised great opportunities for all people, but they were just documents when it came to people of color. These documents which provided “the bank of justice” and “great vaults of opportunity,” were not true for people of color. He suggested that America has, in essence, given them, “a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
His cry was not economic. He was not suggesting socialism or quotas, but simply that all people be treated equally and have the same opportunities. In one famous line he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
King’s message of equality was one that he hoped would be pursued peacefully. He said, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.” He also realized that the great melting pot must produce one precious metal. When addressing the “whites of the nation” he said, “their destiny is tied up with our destiny…. their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
We’ve come a long way since 1963. We no longer have segregated eating places, sitting areas, and drinking fountains for different races. But racial tension in our country is still there—even reverse discrimination. Racism should not be tolerated.
I am unapologetically pro-law enforcement. I have close family members and friends who protect and serve. They judge people based upon the content of their character. I know their hearts and their stories. I stand with them.
I cannot judge, but I will say that in every profession there are those who abuse power and authority. Unfortunately, some of these are in law enforcement. The problem is not law enforcement, but a few individuals. There is great danger in throwing the baby out with the bathwater and thereby undermining and deteriorating the fabric of an organized society.
From what I’ve seen on social media, people seem to think that you have to “choose sides.” You have to choose to support the police or the African American community.
It’s not about choosing sides. In fact, “sides” are the problem. Whenever you find yourself using language such as “them,” “those people,” or “that group,” you manifest the racial tendencies within you. In your heart, you say, “they ain’t like us.”
To talk about “behavior” is another conversation entirely. Those claiming to protest by angrily attempting to hurt officers, citizens, or to ransack and destroy businesses are not protesting. Stealing a television from someone’s business is not a protest. These individuals are committing crimes. They are selfishly using a difficult time in our history to pursue their own evil pursuits. Their actions should not be tolerated. They are no less guilty and should be punished.
So, I support law enforcement and I support a nation where we all get along. The only way we’re going to get there is together. We need to change our terminology from “them” to “us”. We’re all is this boat together. A hole on my side of the boat is a hole on your side.
One last thought. The framers of our Declaration of Independence wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
If, as they note from the Bible, that “these truths” are “endowed by [our] Creator,” then recognizing His Sovereign, purposeful hand is the best place to start. The Father wants everyone to play nice in the sandbox.
As a community, let’s work together to ensure that racism has no place in our halls. The only way to do that is to evaluate our hearts. Let’s sit down at the table of brotherhood and truly listen to one another. Let’s keep the dream alive. When I do my part and you do your part, we will have done our part.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.