(Jesus and the Woman at the Well John 4: 1-42)
The disciples left their teacher, Jesus, beside a dusty well outside a town in Samaria. It was approaching midday, so most women, desiring to avoid the midday heat, had already come for water. The disciples went to town looking for some food, leaving Jesus to rest at the well. He was tired and thirsty. A woman approached. She was on her own. And she was a Samaritan. Given the societal norms of the time, Jesus should not have had any interaction with her. But he did. The conclusion of the story was that she became an evangelist to her town; many came to hear Jesus because of her testimony, and many believed.
In today’s church world, this interaction would never have happened. Many Christians, and church leaders themselves, distrust their male leaders’ ability to set sexual boundaries. In some circles this is compounded by a lingering, unspoken belief that women are dangerous seductresses.
Let me give you an example. At a leadership conference we viewed an excellent video about how sexual abuse can happen in a church setting. In this case, the minister, a single man, had emotionally and then sexually seduced three women in his congregation. The video clearly showed the dynamics of how the man took advantage of these women’s vulnerable points to seduce them into a relationship that was beyond the role of colleague, friend or pastor.
After the video was finished, we broke into discussion groups. I was the only woman in my group. As things progressed, the discussion began to centre only on prevention through setting: never meet with a woman unless your wife is present, do not give a ride to any woman if you are alone in the car, etc. Not one person commented on how the character of the minister in the video had ultimately led to the abuse of these three women. While being alone with a woman in a counselling session or in a car may provide the opportunity, it is the lustful condition of a man’s heart, and the misuse of authority they hold, that allows it to happen.
Clearly, Jesus was not afraid to be with women. In addition to his very private encounter with the woman at the well, he was a close personal friend of Mary and Martha (John 11:5), associated with prostitutes, allowed a woman to wash his feet with her tears–a very intimate moment (Luke 7:36-38). Women were a part of Jesus’ entourage, even supporting him with their own money (Luke 8: 1-3). Jesus respected these women; fear of them and how they might contaminate his ministry had no place in his heart or life.
Since Jesus was fully God and fully man, we should assume that he had all the desires any thirty-year-old man would have had. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15 NRSV). Jesus would have had desires for emotional intimacy and physical intimacy that could have put him in a compromising situation. But it didn’t happen. Why? Jesus dealt with his own lusts in a healthy and godly manner. Consequently, not only was he not afraid to be with women, he was not afraid of what others might think.
As the body of Christ, the biggest mistake we make in establishing sexual boundaries is to assume that physical boundaries alone provide safety from affairs, adultery and sexual abuse. They do not. The only truly safe boundary line is the one that runs firmly and clearly through our heart. In order to do that we must, men and women, acknowledge that we are created as sexual beings. God made us that way. There is nothing inherently wrong with these desires for sexual intimacy. What is wrong is how they are expressed. It must be decided in our hearts and minds that we will steer clear of all forms of sexual immorality. We must be like Jesus, with respect for (and without fear of) the opposite sex, to give people a safe place to heal.
If, when you examine your heart, you need to work on these issues, there is more information for you in chapter thirteen of Soul Surgeon on setting sexual boundaries.
Contact me today if I can be of help.