The Ripple Effect

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I really like the concept of cause and effect. If you take a particular action, it will produce a certain effect. It just makes sense: if I touch the hot stove, my hand will get burnt. If I drop my glass on the ground, it will break. If I spend too much time outside, I will end up looking like a tomato. Every effect was precipitated by a specific cause. Once we start introducing more people and more variables into these equations, they grow increasingly complicated. Regardless, I like being able to see and feel the ripple effects of choices and decisions daily in our lives.

Cause and effect isn’t a new concept, but can be seen throughout the Bible. Jesus understood that every action led to another action. He knew that a single choice made by him or the disciples could change the life of another person. A decision of faith, love, kindness, and hope could radically alter someone’s life, which could then ripple out in truly astounding ways. As they traveled the country, Jesus intentionally instilled this principle to the disciples.

I believe the story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman in John 4 was one of these important cause and effect lessons. This was a truly unexpected move by Jesus. If TMZ had been around at the time, they would’ve positioned this as a huge scandal because Jews and Samaritans were taught to hate each other. For the Messiah to be seen talking with this woman was shocking. During this intimate exchange between Jesus and this mystery woman, he shares the truth with her and she comes to believe that he is the Messiah.

Here’s what happened next:

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.” John 4:39-41 (NIV)

Jesus loved this woman. He saw her intrinsic value just because of who she was. He saw her and dignified her humanity in a way she likely hadn’t experienced before. He also loved the Samaritan people and longed for them to know him. He strategically chose this woman to be the one to proclaim Christ to those who were far from him—what an amazing choice!

I think this exercise was also to help the disciples understand cause and effect in the Kingdom. When they found Jesus talking to the woman, they were surprised by this scene. Yet they were present for this woman telling the town about Jesus and their belief in him. Then Jesus and the disciples remained with them for two days.

I wonder how their stayover went. Did some of the disciples prickle against spending time with Samaritans? Were they welcomed with open arms by these people? Did Jesus take time to speak to the disciples about the importance of this overlooked group? We will never know, but this story sure does give me a lot to wonder about.

In addition to this being an extraordinary display of love and grace to a broken and hurting people, I believe this was also a lesson for the disciples. I believe this was a training moment for when they would be left to build the church.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NIV)

They saw a glimpse of the compounding effect of discipleship on their getaway in Samaria. They learned the power of a single conversation during their time with Jesus. And after his resurrection, they put those lessons to good use, as they had Holy Spirit fueled conversations that resulted in revival across the known world.

I am encouraged because the ripple effect is still happening today. It’s likely that we came to faith because of another person’s faith. And our faith is rippling out to others through what we say and how we live. Thankfully, like the disciples, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live like Jesus daily. It’s so easy to think that our words, our actions, or our faith isn’t enough, but that simply isn’t true. A woman who was overlooked by society was used by God to change an entire town after an intimate encounter with Jesus. Our time with him is well spent and the faith produced is never wasted.

How do you see cause and effect in your life?

How has your faith been built during quality time with Jesus? How has that changed how you live?

To go Deeper: Read You of Little Faith, Unnamed: Woman at the Well

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