As a kid, I always thought the book of Jonah was about Jonah not obeying.
Duh. God said go to Nineveh. That’s why you were, y’know. Pickled in a fish.
I confess it wasn’t till as an adult, teaching a junior high Sunday school class, that I realized how much Jonah is about God’s heart for the nations—and what I saw as Israel’s snooty elitism.
But wait; that may not be fair. No, Israel didn’t get how much God was continually blessing them to be a blessing; to bless all nations with how they were blessed (laid out in his original call to Abram, right? Check out Genesis 12:1-3).
Taking it up a notch
But in God’s request to Jonah, God ratchets things up a step further. Thirty years or so earlier, Israel had experienced sickening methods of domination by the Assyrians. The Assyrians were known for despicable and truly cruel treatment of those they conquered.
Israel and Judah’s horror and detestation of this enemy would be far more than, say, Americans’ anger after 9/11 (though I do think the book of Jonah brings a similar resulting racism front and center, an issue we cannot ignore as Christians). This is more like asking the Jews to make nice with ex-Nazis and go tell them how great God is, hopefully for the saving of their souls.
Jonah is about Judah and Israel’s disobedience in not sharing God with the nations. But it’s also about their own racism and inability to forgive and bless after a particularly personal, heinous, and grievous offense. It was likely many relatives had been dragged away into Assyria’s horrors.
It helps me understand why Jonah…ran the other way.
Am I the only one thinking Jonah has some critical messages for us as believers in 2018?
Am I missing something?
Maybe you wonder why I bring this up to preface a self-assessment. This particular assessment is about willingly exposing yourself to other cultures in your hometown: the nations among you.
I appreciated a comment on our post, Start Here: Ideas to Reach the Nations Right Where You’re At. Matt mentions,
I’m absolutely for anything that encourages people to engage the nations locally, however, this article kind of takes the perspective that local international work is practice for the “real thing.” Maybe, just maybe, God is calling his church to go into all ethne here. This shouldn’t be about which is better or what is practice for what, but just being sensitive to the Spirit for God to lead you to the people he wants to love through you. Perhaps a missionaries whole career overseas was practice for their call back home. God is big. My guess is that it’s more complex than we would think.
Another commenter, Denise, mentions,
All followers of Christ should engage with those right in our own cities, no matter who they are or where they are from. Yes, it is a great training for preparing for overseas work but it is also what the local followers of Christ are called to do. PERIOD! I love working with refugees in my city. I have learned so much from them and found a deep love for them knowing that we are all God’s created children.
Ours was the Jesus who made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). And that’s the idea of cross-cultural training and experiences: to be able to dwell among; to love well and specifically; to accurately listen, hearing the questions of each soul. The soul of a Muslim in Qatar is likely asking very different questions than a Japanese businessman. A housewife in the Andes is asking different questions than the tribal chief in Angola.
The goal of this assessment isn’t that reaching x number of experiences magically prepares you to serve God overseas. The goal is to stimulate your mind and heart to diving deeply in, wherever you are.
We’ve already offered three self-assessments (we’ll post them again below!) to help you determine more of your own readiness, and areas in which you could grow as you lean in an overseas direction. Today’s assessment will simply help you understand your own degree of cross-cultural exposure, and give you new ideas for engaging with the nations right where you’re at. It may press you from the soft, pleasant edges of your comfort zone, and into your very own Nineveh.
Like this post? You might like
- Start Here: Expanding your Heart for the Nations Where You’re At (Ideas #1-10)
- When the Rich from the West Don’t Know They’re Acting Like It
- FREEBIE FRIDAY: YOUR JOURNEY THERE: A FLEXIBLE TIMELINE [INFOGRAPHIC]
- God’s Will…and the Clarity I Didn’t Have
- He Said/She Said. You Say? “How can I know if God’s calling/leading me overseas?” Part I and Part II