In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Jesus points out to the woman that she has had 5 husbands and that the man she is with now is not her husband. End of story. At least, that’s the way it seems to some to prophetic people. Does Jesus not give us the example of calling out people’s sin? Does this not give us license to do the same? What’s wrong with calling out people’s sin, especially publicly? Everything!

John 4 does not give us the license to shame people in front of everyone else with our prophetic gift. Although it may make you stand out, it certainly doesn’t do so in a biblical way. People are not going to be very happy with you, and rightfully so.

What does sin have to do with it? It depends how you look at it. Look at it from the woman’s perspective. She already knows her situation with men. When Jesus tells here to go get her husband, she rightfully responds that she doesn’t have one. Jesus doesn’t rub it in with reminding her that she’s had 5 husbands and now is living with someone “in sin.” He simply points out that she has spoken the truth. He does it in such a way that it made her run home to her village and announce to everyone there that she has met someone who told her everything she ever did. Because of the woman’s testimony, many believed in him, the Bible says (John 4:39).

That’s not my experience with the average example I have heard of a prophetic person shaming another in public. They don’t go home to announce to their hometown how excited they were and have people come to Jesus. Instead, they go home and hang their head in shame.

Let’s not forget that Jesus met with the woman in private, even though it was a public space. There were only the two of them. Jesus did not expose her sin, but He exposed her need for the one who could offer her living water so that she would never thirst again. She looked for love in all the wrong places over the course of her life, but finally she found the source of love that would forever satisfy the deepest needs of her soul: Jesus.

When we read the Bible with the heart of a father who is calling all His children home, we become less concerned with pointing out things in people’s lives that they are already all too familiar with: their failings, shortcomings, and sin. They don’t need someone to point that out. They are all too painfully aware of these things in their life. They need people who will love them and believe in them in spite of their sin. Jesus went out of his way to demonstrate the love the Father to the Samaritan woman. It was the hottest time of the day. Jesus transgressed the cultural boundaries of his day – Jew/Samaritan, male/female – to strike up a conversation with her. All so that she might know the one who offers living water. (John 4:10)

By Ralph Veenstra