God is given many names in the Bible.
The Lord will provide
The Lord who heals
The God who sees
The Good Shepherd and many more…
But maybe the name we should give God is The God of the second chance because in every area of life God is willing to give us a second chance. And a third chance. And a fourth chance. Maybe we should give God the name, The God of another chance. Last week we saw that Jesus gave Thomas a second chance to believe in him and throughout our lives God willing gives us another chance to place our faith and trust in him. We have chances as children to love and follow Jesus and then as teens we can have that faith confirmed. We have chances as young adults and then as young parents to make our faith our own and commit to teaching it to our children. We have chances all through life to place more of our faith and trust in Jesus and it is important that we take these chances and move forward.
Today we are going to see that God is also willing to give us a second chance at love – both a chance to love God again but also a chance to experience true and lasting love with others. Marriage and divorce are often difficult things to talk about in the church because there are different messages people need to hear at different times. Yesterday I was blessed to join together two people from Faith Church in marriage and what they need to hear is that God desires us to remain united in marriage which means we need to work hard and forgive often so that what God has joined together can stay together forever. God takes the union of marriage seriously and we need to as well.
There are other people, however, who need to hear that the breakup of a marriage or a relationship is not the end of life – nor the end of love. Divorce is never something to be taken lightly, but it is a reality in our world and it has always been a reality among God’s people. The story of Abraham records one of the first divorces in the Bible. Abraham was married to Sarah and God told them they were going to have a child. When that child didn’t come along in the time period they thought was reasonable, Sarah suggested that Abraham have a child with her servant and in some sense that child would be hers. So in Genesis 16 it says that Abraham took Hagar as his wife.
Almost immediately there were problems and jealously developed between Sarah and Hagar. Things got worse when Hagar the servant had a child and then they deteriorated even more when Sarah had a child. Finally things got so bad between Sarah and Hagar that Abraham sent Hagar away – and in many ways this was one of the first divorces we see. Men could simply send their wives away or divorce them for any reason. If he wasn’t happy with her, she could be sent away with nothing. Woman really had no standing or rights so if she was sent away she would first try to return to her father’s household, but if there was no father or family to take her in, the woman often became destitute. They lived on the margins of society and if no man would marry her she often became a prostitute to keep herself alive.
This was the situation in the time of Jesus as well. Women could be dismissed for almost any grounds and if they were not able to return home they had to find other means of support. Divorce marginalized women and forced them into lives that where difficult which is why Jesus gave such a hard teaching about divorce. Matthew 19:3-10.
The first thing to notice is that Jesus’ teaching on divorce begins to effect men. If a man divorced his wife and married another woman he was now committing adultery. Before, men could issue a divorce decree and move on without any penalty at all – but here Jesus is saying that there are consequences for men in divorce as well as women. This teaching is difficult – there seems to be little grace or forgiveness and not much of a second chance. From this teaching it is hard to see the God of the second chance, but we can if we look deeper.
The first thing we need to understand is that Jesus often used a preaching and teaching style called Prophetic Hyperbole where he would exaggerate a statement to prove a point. For example, Jesus said that if our hand or our eye causes us to sin we should cut it off or gouge it out. Clearly Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation but he is talking about the importance of being faithful and obedient. Here Jesus might also be using some prophetic hyperbole to teach people that marriage is important and divorce is never to be taken lightly because it effects everyone involved – men and women.
Jesus teaching here also points us back to God’s intent for our lives. God’s intent in marriage is that two become one and so divorce isn’t just two people deciding to go their separate ways – it is one person being torn apart. There is real pain that comes with divorce and while there may be good reasons to do it – it needs to be taken seriously.
So while on the surface, this teaching doesn’t show much hope for a second chance, the intent was to show how seriously we need to take divorce because of the detrimental impact it had on women. Divorce often meant women had no second chance in life at all and so Jesus spoke against it in order to protect and care for women.
But we can’t just look at this teaching of Jesus to see if he gives a second chance for love – we also need to look at his interactions with people. In John 4 we find Jesus making a trip through Samaria where he stops at a well at noon. He is tired and thirsty and so when a woman approaches to draw water from the well he asks her for a drink. John 4:4-19
Women would usually draw water early in the morning while it was cool and so for this woman to be there at noon tells us that either the other women refused to invite her along because of her past or she chose not go with them, perhaps so she didn’t have to hear their harsh words and comments. But notice how Jesus responds to her. He asks her for her help. He is willing to take a drink of water from her and he offers her and her family living water. All of this means that Jesus respects her. Jesus does not condemn her when he points out that she has had 5 husbands and the man she is currently with is not her husband, and he doesn’t turn away from her or force her to leave him. He gives her a second chance.
Let’s think about this from the woman’s perspective. She has been divorced 5 times which means she could have simply been dismissed by each husband for no reason at all and forced out with nothing. Each divorce leaves her more marginalized and desperate. She has less and less control and even now the man with her is not willing to marry her. She has no standing and in many ways no hope – but Jesus not only respects her but he offers her living water.
The living water that Jesus offers is love, acceptance and mercy. The living water is healing and hope for a new and healthy relationship. It’s important to remember that Moses, Isaac and Jacob all met their wives at a well, so when Jesus meets this woman at a well and offers her living water he is giving her a second chance at life and love. Jesus doesn’t marginalize her because of her past and he doesn’t load her up with commands and laws in order to find love in the future. Jesus doesn’t tell her to go through some kind of legal process to annul all her marriages and he doesn’t tell her to go marry the man she is currently living with – Jesus just extends grace and mercy. He offers living water and a second chance at love – the love of God and the love of others.
For all who need a second chance at love – Jesus offers it. For all who might feel marginalized and let down by past failures in relationships – Jesus shows us that we can get a second chance – we can drink this living water. As seriously as we need to take Jesus teaching on marriage and divorce – we also need to take seriously this encounter that Jesus has with the woman at the well because it tells us that God gives us all a second chance at love and finding deep fulfilment in life.
This meeting at the well also tells us that we need to make sure the church is a place for all people to experience this second or third or fourth chance at love. Jesus calls the woman and the man she is living with to come to him. He is calling together all those who are looking for love and all those who want to know that they can find a second chance in life. The church needs to be this kind of welcoming place where all those who are thirsty can find the living water of God’s love.
God provides a second chance at love but it is not just a second chance at the kind of love we find in marriage – it is also the kind of love we can experience with God. After his resurrection, Jesus met up with his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Early in the morning they saw a man on the shore who asked them if they had caught anything. When they said no, the man told them to put the nets down on the other side of the boat and when they do they pull in a huge catch of fish. Peter immediately knew that the man on the shore was Jesus and so he jumped in the water and rushed to shore. Peter has once again left his boat and nets to be with Jesus.
After breakfast Jesus took Peter aside and asked him, do you love me. John 21:15-17. Three times Peter had failed to show his love for Jesus and denied that he knew him. Three times Peter had been unfaithful and so here Peter is given a second chance at love, a second chance to communicate his love for Jesus. So it is not just our relationships with one another where we get a second chance at love – it is also in our relationship with God. And what is interesting to see is that with both the woman at the well and Peter on the shore a second chance at love comes when we are willing to do three things.
First we have to Be Honest. Jesus confronted the woman with the reality of her living situation and Peter with the reality of his failure to love. To get a second chance they had to be honest about their failures and come face to face with their own lives. Jesus doesn’t do this to condemn them but to help them be honest about their hearts and lives so they can move forward. To get a second chance at love we have to be honest about our past, assume our responsibility for the our part of the problems so we can learn and move forward.
Second both the woman and Peter had to be willing to work to restore trust. Peter had to be willing to agree to feed God’s lambs and tends God’s sheep. He had to recommit himself to the work God called him to do and the woman at the well had to be willing to trust Jesus enough to bring the man in her life to him. Each were given a chance to establish trust and move forward. Every second chance at love calls for us to work in ways that establish or re-establish trust in a relationship.
Third, each of them had to be willing to walk with Jesus. The woman at the well not only came back with her husband but she brought the many in the village with her as she stepped out to walk with God. She was moving forward with Jesus and living into the new life God had for her. Peter also leaves his boats and nets behinds and commits to walking with Jesus into the future. A second chance at love is always going to be strengthened when we are willing to walk with God into the future and allow God to lead.
We are all given a second chance at love. Love in relationships with one another that help us feel valued and secure. We are given a second chance to find a love that helps enrich our lives and move us forward, but we are also given a second chance to experience love in a relationship with God. We are given another chance to experience a love that calls us into the fullness of God and who God calls us and created us to be. No one is beyond God’s grace. No failure in a relationship can keep us from the living water that brings life and love – this second chance at loves is ours if we will come to Jesus.
Second Chance at Love
1. What names of God mean the most to you?
The Almighty God – The Lord will Provide
The Lord who Leads – The God who Sees
God with Us – The Good Shepherd
The God of the Second Chance
2. Read two stories of people being given a second chance at love. John 4:1-26, 39-42 and John 21:1-19.
3. In what ways is Jesus giving the woman at the well a second chance at love?
4. How can you help the church be a place for people needing a second chance at love?
5. Who do you know that needs the living water Jesus talks about? How can you call them to it or help provide it?
6. How did Jesus give Peter a second chance at love?
7. When have you needed a second chance to show your love for God?
8. A second chance at love means being honest about our past, working to restore trust and walking with God. Which of these steps do you need to focus on to get your own second chance at love?
9. Jesus called both the woman at the well and Peter along the shore to share the love and grace of God. In what ways can you bring people to Jesus or care for and feed God’s sheep?