BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
There are different kinds of man-made barriers – cultural, gender, religious, social, and so on that hinder people from fulfilling the purpose of God for their lives. These barriers are interwoven in their operations and they can limit both men and women. If you are going to fulfill your destiny, you must not allow the society in which you live to limit you by compliance with the status quo. You must be ready to swim against the tide of preconceived ideas about people, places and how things should be done. If you conform to the status quo, you will be limited and you will never achieve result any different from what they achieved over the years.
The life of Jesus showed us that you must not be a conformist when it comes to barriers of limitation that men have constructed over the years. You must be ready to disagree with preconceived ideas of the society, and act contrary to established structures, which could work against the effective and efficient pursuit of your destiny. When you do this, people will call you names. Nevertheless, you must never mind as long as you are pursuing the purpose of God for your life.
You must not be a men-pleaser; be a God-pleaser. Jesus fulfilled His ministry because He chose to do the will of His Father. “I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will” (John 5:30 NLT). He was successful because He was not looking for the adulation of men. “When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself” (John 6:15 NLT). Asked by Pilate if He was the king of the Jews, “Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world’” (John 18:36 NLT).
Jesus went to places the Jews wouldn’t go. He interacted with the people forbidden by the Jewish tradition. He ate and drank in places the Jews considered an abomination. He acted contrary to the preconceived ideas of the Jewish society in the quest of fulfilling His God-sent mission. He refused to be limited by man-made barriers.
Jesus, a friend of the Samaritans
In Luke 9, Jesus, despite knowing that there was no love lost between the Jews and the Samaritans, wanted to go through a Samaritan village on His way to Jerusalem. The Jews and Samaritans saw themselves as enemies, but Jesus did not see the Samaritans as enemies. “As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, ‘Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village” (Luke 9:51-56 NLT).
You may not appreciate the unsuccessful attempt Jesus made to go through a Samaritan village until you read John 4 where He also went to a Samaritan village. He never considered anywhere a no-go area for Him in the pursuit of His life’s work for just about three years. No wonder, He recorded outstanding successes.
Let me give you a brief background of the Samaritans. Following the fall of the Northern kingdom and her capital, Samaria, to the Assyrians, many Jews were carried as captives to Assyria and replaced with foreigners to help keep the peace (2 Kings 17:24). These foreigners intermarried with the Jews who remained in the land. This resulted in a mixed race, the Samaritans, which the rest of the Jews in the Southern kingdom considered impure and hated. In addition, the Samaritans had gone ahead to build a rival temple at Mount Gerizim (John 4:20). They had their own version of the Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, called the Samaritan Torah or Pentateuch, which they claimed is the original. There are still some Samaritans today. Their national religion is Samaritanism, compared to Judaism practised by the Jews.
The hatred the Jews had for the Samaritans was so serious that they often avoided traveling through Samaria. They would turn round to follow a longer route. However, Jesus violated this discriminatory tradition. He took the route avoided by the Jews.
There is a lot to learn from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ if you are to fulfill your own destiny too. You must be ready to disagree with their preconceived ideas and tradition.
See the depth of the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, which Jesus refused to accept, and instead, chose to reach out to the Samaritans. “Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, ‘You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?’” (John 4:1-9 NLT).
You are never going to achieve God’s purpose for your life if you discriminate against people based on tribe, race, gender etc. Jesus avoided this type of discrimination. He related with all manners of people – people of diverse religious, social, and family backgrounds. He related with children, women, widows, etc. He never discriminated; therefore, He was able to impact His world maximally. Some people were brought up to hate certain tribes and certain people who belong to certain religions. That’s not what God’s Word says. God is a God of love; He loves the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die for the world (John 3:16).
Love is a command and not subject to your personal preferences and idiosyncrasies. The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. “Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31 NLT).
Jesus went beyond loving your neighbors; He taught that you should love even your enemies and pray for those who persecute and abuse you. “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48 NLT). This is not easy for the natural man to do, but that is God’s standard. It takes the Spirit of God to do it. Luke 6:27-36 also says a similar thing.
Let’s go back to the story of the Samaritan woman. The woman was shocked that a Jew could ask her for water, considering the enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Against this backdrop of hostility between the two and seeing a Jew she had never met before telling her about her marital misadventure, this woman quipped, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet” (John 4:19 NKJV). She then immediately switched over to ask a religious question, apparently to divert attention from her marital crises and her sinful life. However, Jesus played along with her, answering her religious question on the differences in the belief of the Jews and Samaritans on the place to worship.
Jesus gave her the right answer that neither the Jews nor the Samaritans were right, but the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (verses 23-24).
Following the woman’s reference to the Messiah, called Christ, coming to tell them all things, Jesus answered that He was the Messiah. The Samaritan woman left her water pot, ran into the city to proclaim to the people, and asked them to come to see a man who told her all the things she ever did. She said, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (Verse 29 NKJV).
From the Bible account, Jesus, actually, didn’t tell her all the things she ever did, but the little that Jesus told her about her marital mess, thoroughly convinced her about the identity of Jesus. “Jesus said, ‘You’re right! You don’t have a husband – for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now’” (verses 17-18 NLT). What a mess!
The woman progressed from seeing Jesus as a Jew to seeing Him as a prophet, and eventually, as the Messiah. He came to the progressive realization that the person she had been speaking with was not an ordinary Jew, but the expected Messiah.
The point is, if Jesus had followed the Jewish tradition, He wouldn’t have been able to minister to this woman. She wasn’t the best, but God used her to open the door of the Samaritan village to Jesus. The woman, who had such a bad reputation of having married five husbands and the sixth one she was living with was not even her husband, became an evangelist! She became a proclaimer of the gospel. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did’” (verse 39 NKJV). She met the seventh Man – Jesus! Jesus became the seventh man in the life of the woman – He was the completer! She wouldn’t need another man again.
God does not want you to submit your life and destiny to the mere sentiments and tradition of your society. You can make the best decision of your life today. This woman with a marital crisis met Jesus and her life changed.
You may have met other men and other women before now, but you need to meet Jesus. He will give you a new start no matter how ugly your past is. He will put together the broken pieces of your life no matter how shattered your life is. You may have tried other gods, but you need to open your heart to the Living God, your Creator.
You may have used the wisdom and ideas of other people before now, but it is time for you to embrace the wisdom that comes from heaven. The first step towards breaking through barriers is to give your life to Jesus. Today is your day of salvation; don’t delay any longer.
I want you to take note of this: although some Samaritans in Luke 9:51-56 resisted Jesus from passing through their village to Jerusalem, the Samaritans in the village of the woman in John 4 begged Jesus to stay with them for two days in the city just through the ministry of this woman. This happened because Jesus broke through existing socio-cultural and religious barriers, to interact with, and minister to this woman. He started by requesting a drink from the Samaritan, a taboo for Jews.
To be associated with a Samaritan in Jesus’ day was like a curse, but Jesus had no problem associating with Samaritans because He came to die for the world, including the Samaritans. To tell you how much Jews detested this act of Jesus, the Pharisees called him a Samaritan at a time just to insult him. “The people retorted, ‘You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?’” (John 8:48 NLT).
Jesus and the gender barrier
Jesus also broke through the gender barrier. The disciples of Jesus were taken aback returning from where they had gone to buy food to see Jesus speaking alone with this Samaritan woman. “Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, ‘What do you want with her?’ or ‘Why are you talking to her?’” (John 4:27-28 NLT).
Jesus was considered a Rabbi. The disciples were not shocked or marveled that Jesus, a rabbi, was talking to the woman but that He was talking to a woman! It was against the Rabbinical precepts, “Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife.” Rabbis would not discuss with women in public, not even with their wives, sisters, or daughters. It was considered a reproach or below the dignity of a man.
Beyond this, it was even more embarrassing to the disciples that the woman in question was a Samaritan. But they couldn’t ask Jesus why, apparently because of their reverence for Him.
What are the traditions, sentiments, or societal ideas that are inhibiting the fulfillment of God’s mandate for your life? Let me say this for the umpteenth time, if you allow people to dictate to you what and what not to do, you may not fulfill the purpose of God for your life. Don’t respect their barriers that are mere traditions.
God wants you to make His Word your touchstone – not human preferences, biases, and prejudices, masquerading as moral standards or rules and standards of performance. Such barriers – cultural, gender, religious, social, etc. – have crippled destinies of many people. Jesus wasn’t a slave to such barriers; you mustn’t become.
Somebody you should minister to may go to hell because of your regard for the traditions of men. When you have a divine assignment, you don’t respect man-made barriers. Rules are supposed to guide us, but we should not become slave to rules.
Where rules conflict with the Word of God, you go for the Word. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!’” (Mark 2:27- 28 NLT).
Barriers will not allow you to see the harvest that is coming. If you are going to fulfill your God-given assignment, you have to be careful about discrimination. When Jesus told the twelve disciples in Matthew 10:5 not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel –God’s lost sheep – He was not closing the door of the kingdom against them. It only meant that the time for that assignment was not yet ripe.
However, in Acts 1:8, Jesus set the stage for evangelizing the entire world including Samaria and all of the gentile nations: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (NKJV). They were to start from home.
The Bible tells us that as the gospel spread, the church was established beyond Jerusalem, just as Jesus had instructed them. Acts 9:31 says, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (NKJV).
Jesus, a friend of the tax collectors
Don’t write off any man – something good can still come out of him. Don’t become a slave to the constructs of men. Publicans were licensed or contracted to collect taxes on behalf of the Roman government. They were non-Jews and wealthy. The publicans employed subordinates, inferior publicans, or tax collectors for the actual collection of the taxes. They were Jews and not wealthy. The New Testament references are to the lower level of publicans, the tax collectors. The Jews hated them because they collected more than what was required and pocketed the excess. They considered them cheats, traitors and apostates. Some writers have said that the Jews even had this proverb: “Take not a wife out of that family wherein there is a Publican, for they are all publicans.” This shows the contempt and hatred Jews had for publicans. “It is even said that they would not allow them to enter the temple or the synagogues, to engage in the public prayers or offices of judicature, or to give testimony in a court of justice” (American Tract Society Dictionary).
Jesus had to be a friend to tax collectors in order to win their souls. God never gives up on anybody. Don’t have a ministry of criticism, and don’t let criticism slow you down or completely stop you once you are satisfied that your actions do not violate the Word of God. You will be wasting your time trying to satisfy human beings; it’s an exercise in futility.
The Master himself beautifully captured this thus: “‘To what can I compare the people of this generation?’ Jesus asked. ‘How can I describe them? They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’ For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it” (Luke 7: 31-35 NLT). Jesus dismissed their criticisms and faced His life’s work. If you are going to get a different result from what others have, you must do something different (but biblically right) from what they are doing.
You will never be able to win to yourself, the man you have chosen to hate. Jesus loved the tax collectors and even got followers from among them. They followed him because he loved them. People always move in the direction of love and not in the direction of hatred and criticism. “Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.’ Then he added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:10-13 NLT).
Mark 2:15-17 also records a similar incident, but refers to the Bible character as Levi. Some Bible scholars regard the two as the same person. “Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners’” (Mark 2:15-17 NLT). This story is also recorded in Luke 5:29-32.
Matthew or Levi, a tax collector, became a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 10:3), because He did not despise him because of his calling as a tax collector, which the Jews hated. “Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him’ (Luke 5:27 NLT).
Only someone being controlled by Satan will reject being loved! We must be very careful of a gospel that sends sinners away from us because of our holier-than-thou attitude. We must recognize the barriers against our mission. There were cultural, social and religious barriers against the mission of Jesus, but Jesus didn’t allow them to hinder His ministry.
Beware of discrimination. Don’t entertain it. Notwithstanding the mess in people’s lives, something great can still come out of them. Follow the path of love. Love is the way of God and love is justified by the results it achieves. “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48 NLT).
In Luke 19, Jesus won over Zaccheaus by loving him. He knew he was a tax collector who the other Jews would not have anything to do with, but He did not allow any man-made barrier to hinder Him from reaching him with the message of salvation.
He went to his house to the chagrin of the self-righteous Jews. “When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ he said. ‘Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.’ Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. ‘He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,’ they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost’” (Luke 19:5-10 NLT).
Jesus did not listen to what the other Jews said. He would not allow the barrier that they have constructed to prevent Him from doing His ministry. If you are always listening to what people say about you, you will not make it.
Don’t look down or despise anyone. Don’t let men poison your mind to hate a people. Once you hate them, you have constructed a barrier between you and them.
The Pharisee got it wrong, looking down on the tax collector. “Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: ‘Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14 NLT).
God does not give up on anybody. Don’t write off anyone. That is what Jesus taught. “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him” (Matthew 21:31b-32 NKJV).
Who would have believed that the tax collectors often considered the worst of sinners would repent? In the day of John the Baptist, they responded to his invitation to repent and be baptized.
The door of salvation is not yet shut against anyone, as long as he is alive. Therefore, avoid any man-made barrier that may not allow you to minister to any category of people by whatever label men use to describe them. Jesus even taught that those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last (Matthew 20:16). Be careful!
“When they heard this, all the people—even the tax collectors—agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism” (Luke 7:29-30 NLT). Did you see that? God’s way is right.
The tax collectors embraced John’s message, but the religious people of his day rejected God’s plan for them. This scripture is a reference to what is recorded in Luke 3:12: “Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’” (NLT). Jesus came to save the world, and no sinner is excluded. “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47 NKJV).
Conclusion: Jesus died for all sinners; so, every sinner can come. Therefore, there is no sinner that cannot come to Him in repentance. Luke 19:10 says the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Moreover, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37 NKJV).
Connect with the people God has sent you to; be ready to move away from the status quo where necessary. Don’t let anyone limit you. Follow God’s way, not man’s way.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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