I just finished reading Andy Stanley’s latest book, The Grace of God. The best chapter of the book was chapter 11, entitled “Filled by Grace.” I thought it might be nice to give a brief outline of this chapter, which describes Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well.
Jesus asked the woman for a drink from the well. She responded by stating the obvious, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9) Jesus responded by saying, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” ( John 4:10) The conversation continued as the inquisitive woman tried to get to the heart of what Jesus was saying. Eventually Jesus said that the “living water” he was offering would take away thirst for good. He was speaking about water in the soul that would well up to “eternal life.”
“The ‘water’ Jesus offered was the very thing for which her soul was designed to thirst: a relationship with her Creator” (pg. 170)
“Sir,” she said, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15)
At this point Jesus turns the conversation on a dime. He tells her to go, get her husband and come back. If the disciples were standing there at that moment, I can picture Peter saying, “Whoa…that just happened.”
Jesus knew the woman’s story. She wasn’t married. She had been married five times. Now she was living with someone who wasn’t her husband. And to top it all off…everyone in the town of Samaria knew this woman. As Andy Stanley accurately observes, the woman was coming to the well in the heat of the afternoon sun. All alone. You might say, “her reputation preceded her.”
Andy Stanley says, “Not only did [Jesus] change the subject, he deliberately raked his fingernails across an open wound. Suddenly hope became pain, embarrassment, humiliation. Memories she had buried and reburied were forced to the surface. With them came the regret…As wrong and as uncomfortable as all of this feels to us two thousand years after the fact, let’s not forget that Jesus knew the hearts of men. And women. he had come to this dusty well to give this woman eternal life. New life for an old life. Apparently, Jesus knew that for the exchange to be complete, he had to dredge up all the old so that it could be replaced once and for all.” (pg. 171)
The woman didn’t necessarily want to have that conversation with Jesus, so she diverted the attention away from her and asked about a theological debate the Samaritans and the Jews had been having for years and years.
“It’s always easier to talk about theology than our pain.” (pg. 172)
Here’s where I think this chapter really hits home…
“Jesus chose to go to an out-of-the-way town to extend grace to an out-of-the-way-woman. Grace in the form of new life. New life that did not ERASE her old life New life that did not justify her old life. This was new life that would sustain her in spite of her past life and throughout the rest of her life. Certainly Jesus’ offer of eternal life included forgiveness. But this was bigger than that. This was an offer of in-spite-of grace.” (pg. 174)
You really need to get The Grace of God and read it yourself. This concept of “in-spite-of” grace that Andy talks about in chapter 11 is probably the most powerful concept I got out of the book.
One final quote…
“God’s response to the thirsty soul is grace. We would prefer time travel. Second chances. Do overs. But God opts for sustaining grace. Grace that leverages the past for a better future. Grace that fills the gaps created by our sin or the sin of others. Grace that allows us to honestly face and carry our pasts but without being controlled by them. Grace that makes denial unnecessary. (pg. 175)
WOW! God’s grace can leverage our past for a better future! This is what I want to be about! This is EXACTLY how I long to partner with the Holy Spirit in the lives of the hurting, marginalized, thirsty, broken, isolated and paralyzed. This is what gets my heart beating out of my chest. This is a conversation worth sharing.
How has your past been leveraged by the “in-spite-of” grace of God? Have you had an opportunity to share your story with someone else as a means of ministry? The glory goes to God…great things HE has done!
My sincere thanks to Andy Stanley for writing this book. All italicized sentences above are direct quotes rom The Grace of God. I didn’t ask for permission to put these quotes on my blog, but I do cite everything and give credit to Andy for all his work on this subject.
(The Grace of God, (C) 2010 by Andy Stanley, published by Thomas Nelson)