For the last few months we have been bombarded with ads telling us all about politicians running for office and why we should elect them. A number of those commercials took time to talk about what matters to the candidate, and why those issues are so important that we should go out and elect that individual. Yet everyone’s list of what was really important did not look the same, in fact, a number of the commercials focused on attacking opposing politicians for having the wrong list of priorities.
Take a look at John 4:7-24. In this passage Jesus confronts a Samaritan woman by a well. In that day a person who was a Samaritan (an ethnic group) was a second class citizen, so Jesus would not be allowed to speak with them, and especially not speak with a woman who was a Samaritan. Part of the way through their conversation the woman asks Jesus an interesting question, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem…” The question she is asking Jesus is what modes of worship from various traditions is the correct one. Some cultures worshipped God on a mountain (specifically Mount Gerizim) and others felt God was worshipped in Jerusalem. Since she had a godly man in her presence she wanted Him to give her the definitive answer, hopefully to tell her what the proper place to worship God at is.
She asked this question because she felt the location of worship was important. She wanted a black and white answer, is it Jerusalem or on a mountain what is best. But Jesus gives her a totally different response. Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…Yet a time is coming…when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:20-24 TNIV excerpts) So Jesus looks at her question and simply says that location doesn’t matter. You are so focused on details that don’t affect people’s faith in God’s eyes. What God cares about is your spirit, your attitude about your faith, not where you worship God at. God is worried about people who worship God in Spirit and Truth, not the place they worship him at.
Yet the woman’s questions to Jesus sound a little too familiar to conversations that take place in churches across the country. How much time do churches spend on topics like: what is the best kind of music above all others, what is the best way to arrange furniture, and how do I like the bulletin lay out and arranged? When we look at Jesus ministry he spent lots of time reminding people that those topics that were so important to the people of that day, had little effect on people’s souls, and meant little to God. Jesus talked with countless crowds to remind them that focusing on little details of Jewish law was pointless, if you yourself are not living a life transformed by God. He asked why are you so focused on keeping “sinners” out of God’s church, when you yourselves are all sinful people.
Jesus asks us about this continually, is that important to you, or is that important to God? As we seek to grow in faith, and to grow God’s ministry through his church, we must continually ask ourselves, is this important to God? Does this affect the well-being of someone’s soul and spiritual growth, or is this just something I am focused on? Because at the end of the day Jesus call is, that, “We worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”(John 4:23b-24) and that we “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20, TNIV)