One of my favorite things about the summer is the chance I have to reconnect with our college students. Every Sunday night we host the college and young adults of FBC Jesup at our house to study, pray, and fellowship together. This summer it was suggested that we work our way through the Minor Prophets, and so far it has been a fascinating journey. We began with Jonah, working our way through to the moment when Jonah whines about the heat (something I can appreciate in south GA) because his shade tree died, and God says to Jonah, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
That’s my favorite line: “and also much cattle?” I can remember sitting on a hillside reading through the book of Jonah during my days as a camp counsellor and reading that line for the first time, thinking, “really? That’s the way Jonah ends? Why have I never heard that part?” Our God is a God of pity, a God who calls on His people to have compassion, compassion for the cattle, compassion, even, for the people of an enemy nation, a place known for it’s evil and darkness. And He is a God who calls us to the hard task of loving our Ninevite neighbors, those who threaten our safety and oppose the plans of God. He sees behind the bluster of human pride to the deep seated need we all have of Him. And He calls us to do the same.
This week we have been working with middle school students at VBS, and the theme of our middle school week has been Kyle Idleman’s series “Not a Fan.” It has been a challenge to move beyond the kind of Christianity that has us sitting in the bleachers and cheering for “team Jesus,” to actually being out on the court. There has been a lot of conversation about the cost of following Him, and as we have seen His call on us to give up everything for His sake we have encountered various ways we like to hold on to our comfortable Jesus. One of those ways is our struggle to see beyond “us” and “them.” Jonah could only see the enemy in Nineveh. God saw “120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle.” So, how do we see our neighbors? With the vision of Jonah, or with the vision of Christ? If we start to look at those around us with the eyes of Christ it will cost us. It will drive us to sacrifice for the good of the “enemy.” It will cause us to work for the salvation of all “others.” But in the end, only when we see through the eyes of Christ do we see the world for what it’s meant to be, and only then can we truly serve the Kingdom. So what’ll it be? Fan, or follower? Jonah, or Jesus? The choice is up to us.
Soli Deo Gloria!