In Part 1, we summarized the story of Jonah and noted that Jonah’s attitude toward his mission was very disappointing and not what we would expect from a prophet of God. Jonah was all mixed up about what was important.
But then I think: what about us?
There are over 7 billion people in the world today. Christianity is the world’s largest religion (though not the fastest-growing) with a little over 2 billion adherents. Now, even if we could take that number at face value, that means there are over 5 billion people—16 times the population of the United States—who don’t claim to have a relationship with Christ at all.
And of the 2 billion who claim to be Christians, a lot of those are people that you work with and go to school with and see everyday—people who say they are Christians, but who make no real attempt to be obedient to what God says in his Word. For them Christianity is not something that affects their daily lives, but is rather a box that they check on a census survey. We know that the number of real, faithful Christians is much, much smaller.
It is staggering when you realize just how many people in our world need a relationship with Jesus Christ.
And yet, for the vast majority of us, we hear those statistics, and perhaps we think things like, “That’s too bad” or “What a tragedy” or “I really should do something about that”, but that’s all we do. Why is that?
Maybe there are some people who we just aren’t concerned about. We talked about how the Ninevites were the enemies of Jonah and his people and how this affected his view of them. What about us? You might not have enemies in your life in a classic sense, but you certainly have people who you don’t care for as much. What about your boss at work who treats you unfairly and acts like a jerk? How motivated are you to share Jesus with that person? Or the person at school with a bad reputation, or perhaps the unpopular kid that no one likes—how likely are you to talk about your faith with that person? Let’s be honest—there are some people that we just don’t care about very much!
Maybe our culture has made us feel bad about sharing the Good News of Jesus. In a postmodern culture where people argue that there’s no such thing as absolute truth and that one person’s beliefs are just as valid as another’s, evangelism has almost become a dirty word. People who share their beliefs with others are regarded as pushy, nosy, Bible-thumpers. We’ve all heard the jokes about religious groups who go door to door to spread their faith—we don’t want people making jokes like that about us! It’s actually reached the point that most churches have to have a special Invite-a-Friend Day in order for their members to make much of an effort to reach out to others—what’s up with that? Do people have less of a need to hear the Gospel at other times? Or are we just so impacted by our culture that it takes a special occasion for us to work up the courage?
Maybe we get so distracted by other things that we just forget. You know, Jonah was so concerned about the precious plant that grew up over his head and gave him shade that he didn’t really have enough concern left over for the people of Nineveh! We as a people are so busy; we have so many things going on in our lives that it’s easy for us to get distracted and lose perspective. When we’re so concerned about issues going on at work, or our squabbles with our spouses, or our children’s athletic careers, how can we have concern left over for those who are lost?
As the people of God, I think we can get mixed up too. Just like Jonah was.