The short and beloved book of Jonah teaches a lot of things. It teaches us about rebellion, it teaches us about God’s pursuing heart, it teaches about the power of God, but perhaps overlooked is how Jonah teaches us about evangelism for today.
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Now the word to he Lord came to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against me.”
- Jonah teaches us that God wants to save people we don’t like
The major reason why Jonah refused and ran away was because the people of Nineveh were Israel’s enemies and had been a thorn on their side for some time. Of course Jonah had some negative sentiments towards them.
Think of all the people that “we don’t like” or “don’t get along with” and we will find that, if given a chance, we are much more reluctant to love them and to share the good news with them. That officer that gave you a ticket, that co-worker that is offensive and rude, that friend who just really annoys you, etc..
Would you be willing to witness to those people who you are personally at odds with? Perhaps we need to renew our minds and hearts again when we realize that, even though we’re hesitant to, God’s heart is for those people we don’t like.
- Jonah teaches us that God wants to save people who we think least deserve it
The people of Nineveh were, no question about it, a wicked city. So much so that God had pronounced judgment on them for forty days to repent or be destroyed. But despite their wickedness, God’s desire for people to repent was still in effect. And so he sent Jonah to them with a message of repentance so that they might be saved. Notice how going to Nineveh is not Jonah’s initiative. It wasn’t Jonah’s idea. It was God’s idea.
What Jonah would consider to be a city that deserved its just reward, God considered a people worth his grace and love. In confronting Jonah’s own sense of self-righteousness and rubric by who deserves to be saved, God asks him, “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left..?”
You see, God is in the business of saving people who deserve it least. And many times those people are the very same people that we, in our religiousness and false piety, consider unsavable.
We think of the worst “sinners” in society and dissociate ourselves from them. In the 21st century, how does these sound? God wants to save homosexual people, he wants to save sex traffickers, he wants to save ruthless dictators, he wants to save Muslim people, etc…
And Jonah shows us that our lens by which we see people is much different than the way God sees them.
- Jonah teaches us that God wants to save people of different language and nationality from us
Perhaps taken for granted is the most surprising fact that the people of Nineveh were a people that were not Jewish. Think of all the promises to the descendants of Abraham and how it seemed as if Gentiles were not part of that plan. And for God to ask Jonah to go to a foreign city to preach a message of repentance to a people he supposed were not part of the people of God probably shocked him.
He has a heart not just for the people and nation of Israel, but for the Gentile nations as well. Listen- if you’re Caucasian, God has a heart for the Asians, the blacks, the latinos, etc. If you’re Asian, God has a heart for the caucasians, the blacks, the latinos, etc.. Long story short, God has a heart for people who don’t look or talk like us.
Is God interested in cross-cultural missions through you? Yes He is!
You see, to God, language is not a barrier. If Jonah teaches us anything, it’s that the bigger barrier is probably within ourselves. Our minds and eyes need to be constantly renewed by the lens of faith so that we can see the world through God’s eyes: filled with people who are loved and are savable.