“By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)
Faith is great. It is the only place to start. Without faith, you have no starting place. All good things that we do in the name of Christ are hinged on faith. Many of us stop at a profession of faith in our lives without ever moving to obedience. We say we love Jesus, which is easy to do, but doing the will of God requires a level of commitment that few people ever reach.
Many of us actually create our own version of God’s will. We even do it based on what the Bible says. We act obedient and moral, and on the outside, we look like the real thing, but on the inside we can still be angry, bitter and even unloving. God has a tremendous call on our lives to make a difference and we try to buy Him off with good behavior. God could be saying tell your neighbors about Jesus and we say how about I just put a fish on my car and don’t cuss.
Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and that should drive us to courageous and loving actions rooted in deep gratitude — nothing less. Did Jesus really suffer the agony of the cross for us to simply give him “good behavior?” The cross frees us for far more rebellious acts against this dark world than mere moralism.
The story of Jonah is a great example of compassion. The compassion God had for the Ninevites is remarkable. This was not a prophet of God going to the people of God and lovingly calling them to repentance. This was God reaching out to a group of people who did not believe in Him. Even though Jonah did everything in his power to avoid going, God orchestrated events to place him exactly where he needed him to be and he delivered the message.
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah 3:4
I’m sure Jonah had made incredible assumptions about the Ninevites. They are horrible people. Of course God hates them. There is no way they will listen. Jonah wanted them to be punished.
But regardless of what was happening in his spirit, God’s message was very clear. And the people of Nineveh believed God. Jonah 3:5
The Spirit of the Lord transcended the words of Jonah’s mouth and spirit and became acceptable to the ears and hearts of the listeners. The message that Jonah delivered was about destruction. The message that they received was about undeserved grace. The King called for personal and community repentance.
Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” Jonah 3:8-9
There is a good reason that we worry too much about how people will receive our message. It’s because we think it is our message. Our message may be weak, unloving and judgmental. Fortunately, this was never about Jonah and his message. It was about God’s desire to show compassion to a group of people.
If God is calling you to reach out to someone and your assumption is that they are too far gone or that they don’t want to hear your message, you need to know two things. Where you are called to go, God’s Holy Spirit is already there. Where He asks you to go, He already has a plan for you to share His message.