Hindrance to the Gospel – “I am”
“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”
God beckoned Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against its wickedness. But Jonah heads in the totally opposite direction. For his own selfish reasons, the prophet did not desire that the city be saved, as its people were gentiles and enemies of Israel. We see in Jonah a proud and uncharitable spirit. After God takes Jonah through the experience of being in the belly of a fish, Jonah proclaims God’s message and the Ninevites turn to God. When Jonah saw that God had compassion on Nineveh and did not bring destruction upon the great city, he became angry. Though he clearly sees God’s attributes of being compassionate, gracious, abounding in love and slow to anger, as the Psalmist (in Ps 103:8) refers to God, Jonah forgets that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but desires that they turn from their wicked ways and live (Ez 33:11). Even while Jonah sat outside the city waiting to see what would happen to it, God makes a vine grow that provides Jonah with shade, and the next day caused it be withered. Jonah became angry at this, and then God reasons with him that when Jonah is so concerned about the vine, though he did not tend to it or make it grow, why wouldn’t God be concerned about the great city and its people.
How does an almighty God, with infinite wisdom and power reveal himself to the finite, mortal man? God reveals himself in a wonderful and clear manner through all of history as we can see from the bible. He speaks to men and makes His will known. He speaks through the rise and fall of nations and makes His character known to us. When He walked amongst men He spoke in parables and later fulfilled the grand design through the cross and restored and reconciled man to Himself.
At times, even Christians can behave as Jonah did. When the people from conflicting backgrounds who we consider to be more “wicked” are added to the Church, some find it difficult to accept them, give them fellowship and equal rights. They are angry like Jonah, show dissent like the older brother in the “Parable of the Lost Son” (Luke 15:11-32) and become demanding like the disgruntled worker in the “Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard” (Matt 20:1-16). This may be one of the greatest hindrances for unbelievers who are seeking the true God. "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips. Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." – (Lyrics from the song What if I stumble)
When Time magazine asked a number of authors to write on the topic: "What's wrong with the world?” The great Christian apologetic, G.K. Chesterton’s answer at that time was the shortest of those submitted, and he simply wrote: "Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton" It is of essence that we pray that God instills in us the spirit of compassion and love and give us the perspective with which He views all of mankind.
Prayer: O Lord, give me your perspective, attitude and mind so that I will be compassionate to others outside the faith. May I reflect your very nature and proclaim the gospel, not only with my mouth, but my life as well.. Amen
Thought for the Day: Am I a hindrance to the Gospel?
Dr. Derry Rajan, Long Island Mar Thoma Church N Y.