Last week, as I was driving to work listening to an interview by a Ukrainian reporter, the sound of air raid sirens filled my car. My legs became weak, my heart broke, and tears began to flow down my cheeks freely. My thoughts raced to the parents trying to comfort their frightened children, let alone themselves, as they rushed to grab what items they could and seek shelter. In my heart, I know that their reality today could be ours tomorrow.
Over the past few weeks, the Lord has directed my heart to marinade in the Old Testament prophets. It doesn’t take long to recognize that condition of the world today mirrors the times the prophets wrote about. The study text reveals that “Justice had become twisted, and the righteous were treated like dirt. The truth had become a liability and could endanger anyone who spoke it, and trust among the people was pretty much non-existent. Bitterness, corruption, and treachery had poisoned the community of the Lord’s people.” The condition of their hearts, minds, and attitudes wreaked with malice and smelled of pride and self-love.
If I’m being honest, my heart has been grumbly lately. I’m tired of all the rhetoric, false information, and blatant division in our families, businesses, and even our churches. I have been prideful, and my attitude has been a little smelly on more than one occasion. I look at the world’s condition, and I’m ready for Jesus to come, but then there’s the ending of Jonah when the Lord says, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Ninevah has more than 120,00 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
In Francis Chan’s book “Unity Unity,” the dagger digs even deeper when he says, “My fear is that perhaps without even realizing it, we’ve fallen into the very dangerous habit of neglecting God’s command in favor of our logic.”
I’m not skilled in understanding what God has willed or what He has planned, but I do know that just as he commands the rains to fall on the just and the unjust, he requires me to love them both. He does not want my sacrifices nor ritualistic worship, but my heart. When my heart is aligned to Him, he can help me in my relationships with and towards others. There was a saying in a recent sermon at church, and I loved it. It was, “Jesus didn’t go around poking people in the eye, but did his best to connect.” Jesus modeled how we are to love. He connected, gave testimony to their sin, showed compassion, and told them to go sin no more. He didn’t run after or shame each person for what they did or didn’t do. Most already knew the weight of their sin. He provided the way out.
The study text for Micah 6:8 says, “As they are motivated by love, their actions will be tempered by justice, mercy, and humility.” We get an upgrade that affects our hearts, minds, and attitudes when we abide in Christ. We were never meant to dictate and pressure others into submission with our opinions or ways, but to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. This is what pleases the Lord and brings him glory. It was never to be of ourselves.
The book of Jonah has an open ending. There is more to come; we just don’t know what is next, but the Lord is here and is living among us, and He is mighty to save. One way to prepare for his kingdom on earth is by the cleansing of our hearts. May we throw off the cloaks of division, pride, bitterness, malice, jealousy, comparison, etc., that we may reflect Him as we deal with others to make Him known. Our testimony for Christ is essential in an oppressed and confused world; the world is watching! May we no longer grieve the Holy Spirit but come together in Christ to restore hope to lost, extend grace and compassion to all who are hurting and looking for a way out.