Friday, September 30, 2011

110930 - Jonah - Jonah's conclusion serves as a parable for missions

S: And the LORD said, "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?" (Jonah 4:10-11)

O: Jonah's is a miraculous story. Not only in the obvious, Jonah's survival after the sea creature swallowed him, but also in the unparalleled revival of the Ninevite people. Jonah's self-centeredness is also remarkable, considering his rescue and the success of his mission.

A: Possibly Jonah had been given something of the future of Nineveh, as Elisha had about Syria (2 Kings 8:12). But his concern about his comfort and lack of concern that the young (idiom in 4:11) and innocent livestock perish make an unforgettable picture.

The statistics on the cost of comfort for North American Christians is staggering, compared to Jonah's simple concern for shade. Meanwhile, a video I recently viewed asserts that only 3 out of 100 missionaries go to the poorest nations with the least access to the message of Christ. Only $.01 out of $100 of charitable giving goes to the 2 billion poorest, most unreached in the world. More money is embezzled by church leaders than is spent on the unreached. Worship should be our primary motivation for missions. But Jonah's heart is far from being touched by that motivation. God's very graciousness was the reason he fled from delivering the message. God appeals to him on the basis of raw pity for the helpless.

Where is our worship? Where is our pity? Like Jonah's, it's largely overshadowed by our concern for our own comfort.

P: Lord, do I not find myself guilty of this same kind of attitude that perpetuates what's going on in our "encultured" Christianity? Naturally, we're entitled to this abundance! Why else would you have given it to us? The answer to that question is uncomfortably clear: so that we can reach others with your life-giving message. Wake your people up to our responsibility to you and to our fellow man.

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