“Will you give me a drink?” (John 4)
One of the most deceptive teachings a student encounters at UBF is from John chapter 4. This is a perennial favorite passage for the Summer Bible Conferences. The story in John 4 is about a woman going to Jacob’s well to draw water in the middle of the day. Jesus’ disciples go into the town, leaving Jesus alone with this woman. Jesus introduces himself as the Messiah to her and she runs off to tell her village the good news that the Messiah had arrived.
In this story, Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. The UBF Bible teachers think this means Jesus approves using deceptive means for evangelism. For example, when UBF began, they invited students in Korea to English classes. But the classes were really UBF Bible studies. This is the common evangelization approach taken at UBF. They invite students for “just one hour” of Bible study but hide the fact that they are really inviting the student to a new UBF lifestyle filled with UBFism. The justification for such behavior seems to me to stem from John 4. Using just an ordinary and small question about a drink of water, Jesus moved the conversation toward revealing himself as the Messiah. So the UBF shepherds tend to use one small request of a favor to initiate their recruiting.
In the following conference lecture, the lecturer sees himself as the respectable shepherd going to campus to find “lower-class” students. His UBF indoctrination has told him that he is the elite, “high quality” shepherd. But he feels incapable. He wrestles with the seeing the confident students, which contrasts his own lack of assurance and uneasiness at sharing UBFism. His mind tells him that he is the best shepherd and the students are lost sheep. But his feelings tell him this is not the case. The students are not so lost as he expects. And his identity as an elite, holy soldier is questionable. Such feelings should be a warning that his actions are contradictory to his identity. But he ignores the warning. He uses Jesus’ question, in John 4, to the woman at Jacob’s well to justify his thoughts and motivate him past the contradiction his feelings are warning him about:
“How can a respectable person approach an immoral woman? Sometimes when I go to the campus to invite students to Bible study, I am paralyzed when I see how young and self-assured they appear to be. So Instead of asking them to study the Bible, I just go to the cafeteria, eat something and go come back home. The only way one can make the first step and approach these people, is when he actively humbles and denies himself. Although Jesus is the son of God he humbled himself down to the lowest level. Jesus was full of grace: “Will you give me a drink?”
In addition to fearful sacrifice to appease God’s anger and repeated trips to campus to earn God’s favor, the UBF Bible teacher is also steeped in a world of excessive self-denial. The idea of denying your feelings for the sake of evangelizing “lost” sheep is cemented by other passages taken out of context, such as Luke 9:23 where Jesus says to deny yourself and take up your cross.