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May 6, 2014

I preached on the woman at the well this week. There is a key comment that piqued my interest. It is:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Go call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.’”[1]

For years I have been taught this woman has been divorced five times and she is having a relationship out-of-wedlock here. As long as I can remember that is what I had been taught. There is a problem – assumptions. This whole idea, although not unreasonable, is a complete assumption.

For example, could this unnamed woman have been widowed five times? She sure could have. Or maybe her five husbands left her. It could also be a combination of the two. Or, she could have been divorced five times as I have been taught. The bottom line is we have assumed.

This is a beautiful example why assuming is just wrong. For some reason we typically take the story down the ugliest, most tawdry avenue with little to no regard with the facts as we know them. For example, in this story the facts are simple. The woman has been married five times. She lives with a man who is not her husband. Through this conversation Jesus gains her attention so He can continue to teach her.

Then I got to thinking, how often do we do this in real life? All too frequently. Most of the time there is a word which could describe it – gossip. When we start spreading assumptions we are simply gossiping. This gossip can be damaging and painful. This assumption-gossip cycle must stop. Especially among Christians.

What about when we keep our assumptions to ourselves? After all, it is impossible not to come to assumptions. The key lies in do we explore all possibilities? As for the woman at the well, do we assume she is divorced five times and then move on or do we also explore the other possibilities? If we explore all other possibilities we tend to keep a fair view of the person in question. When we focus on the darkest assumption we frequently stop treating the person with love and respect because our assumption colors our view and judgment.

Take some time today to reflect on the relationships you have. Do you assume the worst or honestly explore all options? Do we focus on treating each person with love and respect? Are we gossiping our assumptions? Take time to work on these issues this week.

[1] John 4:16-18. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture citations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007)


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