The Declaration of Independence that set in motion the beginning of our emerging nation begins with a statement that is, at the same time, inspiring and exclusionary. The spirit of our preamble states that humans have certain unalienable rights that government has the responsibility to protect. However, at the time, the men who wrote the founding documents differentiated based on gender and race.
Fast forward a couple of centuries, and our country is among the global powers that are called to stand up for protecting these rights for everyone regardless of their gender, race, or any other difference. As such, our country is one of the creators of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” adopted by the United Nations as a template for all countries to follow.
Eric Nilsen explains, ”Human rights are the fundamental liberties and rights that every person in the world possesses from birth to death. They apply no matter where we are from, what we believe, or how we live our lives. They are inalienable, meaning they can never be taken away.”
Maybe so, but human rights can be curtailed and taken away whenever government fails to put intent into practice. Among numerous other proclamations, this universal declaration recognizes that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
And so social justice deals with the messiness that comes with making this declaration a reality. “The primary goal of social justice is to create a more equitable society for all individuals,” writes Eric Nilsen. However, protecting human rights includes the equitable distribution of our planet’s resources.
A world where every human’s rights are celebrated and protected sounds like an impossible utopia. It sounds like heaven. Fortunately, heaven on earth is a recurring theme throughout scripture, and Jesus taught us how to pursue this dream together.
There is a story in the Gospel of John that has inspired, challenged, and puzzled believers for centuries. Jesus decides to travel through Samaria. This fact alone challenges us to fill in the missing explanations. Why on earth would a Jewish man travel through Samaria on purpose? The rift between Samaritans and Jews was centuries old. Neither side fraternized with the other but avoided each other whenever possible.
Since we’re not given an explanation, we’re left to speculate amid compelling evidence that everything Jesus did was intentional.
And why Sychar? This is the village where Jesus stops and sits at the public well. Perhaps Sychar was on the path Jesus chose to follow, and it was time for a break. But, on the other hand, this town also had historical significance.
In Samaria Jesus came to a town named Sychar … Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by the trip, sat down by the well.
It would be centuries later, before the site where Jacob purchased land, built a homestead, and dug a well, is turned into a place for pilgrims and tourists to visit. The author doesn’t leave us guessing if this was the same land where Jacob lived and adds the specifics. Sharing that Jesus arrived around Noon, tired from traveling, when He sat down by Jacobs Well.
The story of the well that Jesus visited reads like a romantic drama. It is the story of two families treating one woman as property. We don’t know what really happened. Did the son of a Canaanite Prince assault the daughter of a wealthy Hebrew family, or were they the original version of Romeo and Juliet? We do know that it was not a proud moment for Jacob. The violence towards their sister’s husband-to-be and the entire village by his sons put their whole family at risk of revenge.
Afterward, Jacob’s family packed up and left town. While they may have taken everything, including the kitchen sink, they had to leave the well behind. And wells often provide life-sustaining nourishment for generations to come. Before his death, Jacob leaves their former home to a younger son, Joseph, who he favors. Joseph’s story is amazing, but his story is for another time.
Krista Dover of CleanWaterfortheWorld.org, writes, “The well gave water to Israelites and Canaanites. It gave water to Jews and Samaritans. And one day, many hundreds of years later, that well gave Jesus a place to rest on a hot and dusty day.”
Meanwhile, centuries later, Jesus sits by the well left there by Jacob, and history is made. And the well is no longer the private property of one family. Instead, Jacob’s well is now Sychar’s well, accessible to everyone in the community in need of water. And this includes a Jewish Rabbi passing through town.
Heaven on earth, where human rights are celebrated and protected, requires access to the resources necessary for life to flourish. While public wells are usually replaced with public water systems in our country, access to clean water is a challenge in many places.
According to water.org, it’s estimated that women and girls spend 266 million hours daily accessing water for their families. And 771 million people lack access to safe water.
Did Jesus draw Himself a cool drink from Jacob’s well? Stay tuned next week for what comes next.
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Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by CleanWaterfortheWorld.org.
Content for this series is also based in part on: Eric Nilsen. Understanding Social Justice. © Eric Nilsen, 2022. Independently published.