About 2000 years ago, a Samaritan woman came to a well to draw water. She came alone during the heat of the day which was unusual. Generally, women came to the well together as a social time (Gen 24:11; Exo 2:16) and during the cooler part of the day. From John 4, it seems the woman was immoral and an adulterer. Not just 1 time but 5 times. Two thousand years ago, it was typical for the other women to ostracize, ignore, or shun an immoral woman. This unnamed woman, who feels lonely and hopeless, came to the well where Jesus was at. She was surprised to be the recipient of a conversation with a Jewish Rabbi. Jesus called her to recognize her sinful ways (immorality) and what true worship is (in Spirit and truth). She left her water jug at the well and invited the townspeople to come and see if Jesus is the Messiah. The townspeople come to see Jesus and many of them believed after being with Jesus and hearing His words.
Why would it be surprising for a Jewish Rabbi to talk to a Samaritan woman? The Samaritans mixed the worship of the pagan gods with the one true living God. After conquering Israel, the Assyrians intentionally diversified the inhabitants of Samaria to weaken them. With the diversification, came pagan worship which the Samaritans adopted (2 Kings 17:24-33). Jews avoided the Samaritans and shunned them because of their syncretism. However, Jesus saw the thirst the woman had for the abundant life and engaged her in a life-changing conversation.
The events in John 4 reminded me of cancel culture. Cancel culture can be defined as “a way of behaving in society or group, especially on social media, in which it is common to completely reject and stop supporting someone because they have said or done something that offends you”. I am glad that cancel culture was not a part of Jesus’ character. What would have happened if Jesus had applied cancel culture to this Samaritan woman? She would not have come to know Jesus as Messiah, she would have stayed lonely and hopeless, many Samaritan townspeople would not have believed in Jesus, and the disciples would have lost an object lesson in reaching out to all people with the reconciliation message. Quite a bit of eternal losses.
In understanding the dynamics of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, I perceived the value in resisting cancel culture. The life-giving message of the gospel, by its very nature, negates cancel culture. Disciples were commanded to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth with the message of reconciliation (Acts 1:8). To put up human barriers to offering the life-giving message of salvation is unloving and selfish.
Previously, I have thought of cancel culture as applying to groups of people. However, I realized that though I do not cancel groups of people, I have cancelled individuals—individuals that offended me in one way or the other. Maybe you have individuals that have offended you as well. Perhaps it was because of their personality, their pride, their choices in life, their selfishness, their habits, their diet, their past, their irresponsibility, their prejudices, their hypocrisy, their legalism, their liberalism, their political stance, their family size, their lifestyle, their hobbies, their theology, their religion, their perspective on the value of life, or their whatever. You can probably add to this list of ways people offend others.
When I cancel individuals, I wonder what opportunities I have missed out on? Maybe I missed an opportunity to share the truth of Jesus with someone who might not hear, maybe I missed an opportunity to understand them and build a relationship with them, maybe I gave them a wrong impression of who God is, maybe I failed to bring life to a hurting soul, maybe I failed to receive the joy that comes from offering grace to someone else, or maybe I failed to please my heavenly Father. These missed eternal opportunities should be mourned and repented of.
Also, others may want to cancel me. Perhaps I have offended them in a way previously mentioned. Or maybe because of the truths I believe in, makes people want to cancel me. Truths can be offensive, but I should never present truths in an offensive way. My beliefs and stands should be presented in a gracious manner.
Cancel culture is a precursor to missed opportunities of eternal weight. Who in your life has suffered from your choice to cancel them as a result of an offense? In studying John 4, I became convicted of some people I have canceled. It breaks my heart to think of these lost eternal opportunities. God has directed me on the steps I need to take to cancel the cancel. If God brought someone you have cancelled to your mind, what would God have you do to cancel the cancel? The Samaritan woman was the recipient of Jesus’ grace to refuse to cancel her. I want to offer that same grace to those that offend me. I am grateful we have the example of Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us on how to cancel the cancel!
Image from “Cancel Culture: What it is and Why it Needs to Permanently End,” skillsetmag.com, accessed October 28, 2023, https://www.skillsetmag.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2021/04/1_iStock-1251262051-1024×575.jpg.  Cambridge Dictionary, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/cancel-culture accessed October 26, 2023.