A few chapters earlier, Paul calls the people of God an aroma. A people who spread the aroma of Christ throughout the world. This aroma is that of grace; it is the richness of God’s open embrace.
Grace is not just a transaction. Grace is the power of God. The church then offers this aroma to the world.
I have been reading and thinking about shame quite a bit recently. Shame spans across all human experience. Every person stands under the weight of shame. Some of us know well the heaviness. Others have not stopped because if they stop and look they might notice. Some-aware of the weight and pain of shame-live with numbness to avoid it. Regardless, shame is real. Shame is a power.
The woman at the well knows shame. John 4 tells us she came to the well in the middle of the day, during off hours. We are left to assume she travelled at this time because she wanted to be alone. The whispers were too much. It was exhausting to meet the “good” wives and mothers each morning.
Shame has a way of separating us, pushing even the assumed strong to the shadows. The disconnection of shame tells us we are not worthy of love or friendship. This is a painful story to carry around.
The woman approaches the well and Jesus speaks. “Give me a drink.”
She responds, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman?”
Her response is indirect, defensive. Defense is the muscle memory of shame. Shame tip-toes around assumed traps in self-defense of being vulnerable. Although, Jesus was genuine and kind, she expected the worst, likely because she has experienced the worst.
Then Jesus speaks again, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
The conversation continues. Slowly, Jesus breaks through the woman’s guard. By the end of the conversation about “Living water,” this woman is different. The way of Jesus is the way of grace. It lightens weight of shame, it breaks through the walls of isolation.
Grace, in this story, sends the woman running. Not running to hide, but running back to the city with wonderful news.
As Jesus demonstrates, we are called to have a different kind of power. Suffering, self-giving grace is not a good slogan, yet it is powerful. It is a different kind of power, but it is a power. The Church is the fragrance of life to dying world.
We are a means of grace; we are the aroma of Christ.
The embrace of grace is the call of the church. The way of the cross is the power of God. This power for the world is a will to embrace.
A will to embrace…the other before we know their story or because we know their story
A will to embrace…the least and the lonely
A will to embrace…the people who are well-dressed and those who are ragged
A will to embrace…those how have done wrong over and over and over again