Slumdog Millionaire is a popular movie. If you have not seen it, you may want to stop reading now or this might spoil the plot. The heart of the movie is a profound love story. Jamal, the hero, spends his life seeking his true love, Latika.
The movie carries us through all kinds of scenarios where Jamal has every reason to forget her, and to stop loving her. Yet there seems to be nothing that will stop him from demonstrating his love for Latika.
That is how Jesus feels about us. He has every reason to forget us and stop loving us. We are not faithful, and even when we wish we could follow him we are often unwilling to take the risk. Yet that does not put Jesus off. Eventually he will sacrifice all he has for the chance to show us that he will not stop loving us. We are as precious to him as Latika is to Jamal.
In the daily lectionary reading from John’s Gospel Jesus loves the Samaritan woman at the well. As the story unfolds Jesus breaks taboo after taboo. He talks with a woman he does not know, he talks with a Samaritan, he talks with a woman about whom the cultural cues of Jesus day tell him that even her own people consider her an outcast.
Here’s a woman, a community outcast in a group of people that most Jewish people of the day considered outcast. So socially she is at the bottom of the barrel.
And Jesus seeks to draw her in. He uses her curiosity to begin a conversation with her. In a wonderful dialogue he manages to slowly bring her in.
Jesus ignores certain very important taboos of his day: a man talking with a woman he does not know, the cultural and racial barriers between Jew and Samaritan, and the barrier of talking with a sinner. Does he approve of all that she has done? No. But he knows that he will not win her with moralizing, but by love.
I’m not very good at that kind of charity. But I hope to get better. I’m better at it when I remember that I am the Samaritan woman, the thief on the cross, the tax collector, and yes even the Pharisee. Jesus came for them and he came for me.