When I entered junior high I quickly set two goals for my
seventh grade year: First, to get Kacey Gire to kiss me; and
Second, to keep my friend Eric Green and myself out of the
hospital. Every morning as Eric and I walked to the Rosemore
Junior High School we were forced to walk past a group of guys
that we called "Hoods." They were big, they were scary, they did
drugs, and unfortunately they outnumbered us most mornings 20 to
2. I had the unfortunate problem of being an athlete that lived
in a nice house. Eric had the unfortunate problem of being an
athlete and black. Some days we ran. Some days we fought. Most
days we came home petrified. But not a day went by in all of
seventh grade when my friend Eric wasn't called a "nigger." At
the end of the school year Eric and his mom moved to Cincinnati.
I lost my best friend that summer.
In John chapter four Jesus encountered someone like Eric that
had not one, but two strikes against her. When Jesus asked her
for a cup of water, she replied in verse 9, "You are a Jew and I
am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" In her
culture, that was a pretty simple question. Jews didn't hang out
with Samaritans and Jewish men didn't talk to women in public.
But Jesus willingly did both. That's why I like the title that
New Testament scholar James Dunn gives Jesus-"The Boundary
When others saw skin pigmentation and chromosomal differences,
Jesus saw the person's soul. Jesus saw her for what she could
become. And as a result, this kicked out, put-down, beaten-up
woman encountered the creator of all life. In an instant she was
changed. She ran back to the people in her village and said in
verse 29, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did."
And as a result John's gospel tells us in verse 39, "Many of the
Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's
Not only did Jesus break boundaries himself, but he calls us to
do the same. One of the earliest memories I have as a pre-school
child is sitting at a table, coloring and cutting paper, and
listening in on a conversation three women were having. "I think
they have different jaws," one of the women said. "Yeah, I think
they should date their own kind," chimed in another. "If God
wanted the races to be mixed he would have said so," the last
one remarked. What strikes me about that conversation is not
what they said. Unfortunately I've heard such comments many
different times. What marked me that day was that the
conversation took place in a Sunday School class I was visiting.
Isn't it amazing the things kids remember from growing up in
What will our children remember?