There is a cultural problem in the evangelical church in America. That is, though we claim to believe the gospel is for all people, the natural tendency is still for us to prefer to gather with people who are like us. Whether it be those who are of the same ethnic background, or have the same skin color, or are in the same age group or season of life or income bracket; church for most Americans has become a place to be comfortable being with the people who are most like us.
But this is contrary to God’s intention for the church. The gospel is for all peoples and so is God’s heart and, therefore, our heart should be the same. Evidence of God’s heart for all peoples of the earth permeates Scripture. It is clear God intends to save some from every people group. This is evidenced by the consistency of His ongoing desire for His people to be a gospel light to every nation.
The covenant which God made with Abraham reminds us that the seed that would come through the family of Abraham; that is, the Messiah, would bless all the nations. Our Savior was a Hebrew, a Jewish man, through whom God’s salvation was brought to the world.
- In Psalm 67:2, the songwriter reveals God’s international heart: “That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.”
- Mark’s Gospel exhorts us with these words, “The gospel must be preached to all the nations” (Mark 13:10).
- John’s revelation from the risen Christ reveals the worship of God in heaven as multi-ethnic: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…”
The heart of God for the salvation of all peoples is also evidence by the consistency of His compassion toward them. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God allowed him to see what Scripture calls His “backside.” Then God said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exodus 33:19).
God’s glory is most prominently seen in the giving of His Son. In the New Covenant age, we don’t need to ask God to show more of Himself to us. We need to lift up the glory of His Son in whom His glory has already been revealed. Part of the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ is His heart of compassion to bring the lost back into relationship with Himself. Jesus said to the wayward Jews, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
The ultimate goal of God is to display His glory. Therefore, the heart of God is for the lost, for their salvation, to bring them to the place where they may experience the glory of His grace in redemption.
The lesson of Jonah is that our heart should be the same. Our heart should be filled to overflowing with compassion for the lost. But Jonah’s heart was not filled with compassion. Instead, Jonah’s heart was filled with pride and prejudice. And this pride and prejudice produced a deep, seething anger against the Assyrians, the nation that had taken his people captive.
“These people don’t deserve salvation,” we may imagine Jonah thinking. “They should be judged. They should be condemned. God should destroy them, not save them.” That was the sinful prophet’s attitude. And so Jonah refused to preach to them. But the Sovereign One whipped up a great storm upon the sea, had His rebellious, hard-hearted prophet thrown into the sea and transported back to land by a great fish.
Now, having gone to Ninevah and preached God’s message of repentance, Jonah witnessed the entire city come to repentance. You would think that Jonah would have been thrilled beyond belief. But he was not. Instead he was very angry. He was filled with rage. Why? Because God had spared them. God chose to be gracious to people whom Jonah wished were dead.
What is your heart attitude toward the lost, especially those who are different than you?
[Adapted from the last sermon in the book of Jonah, preached last Sunday: God Rebukes the Self-Centered Prophet.]