“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah . . . saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city.'” (Jonah 1:1-2)
Jesus calls all who follow Him to do this. Every believer is to share the Gospel of Christ as opportunities present themselves, and to live his life as a witness unto the Lord. Communities of Christians have also sent missionaries forth with the Gospel to proclaim in places far away.
While we consider this the norm in the New Testament, it was not so in the Old Testament. Most of the focus back then was on the maintenance and protection of the nation that rose from the family of Abraham. Some did emigrate to other places, taking their faith and Scriptures with them. Most, however, remained in the land of their ancestors with their eyes set on Jerusalem and its temple. If people from other nations wanted to learn about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that is where they would go.
We can only imagine how surprised Jonah was when he was called to go to another nation to preach, especially to a city as pagan and warlike as Nineveh. He didn’t concur at all with the Lord that it was fitting to go there and preach. His response to the Lord’s call was to go in exactly the opposite direction! He wanted no part of the challenges he imagined awaited him in Nineveh. There was no desire on his part to endure being around people he detested.
Even though we now live in an era where mission outreach is the calling of every believer, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. Venturing away from what feels safe and secure to share the Good News with others can be unsettling. While we may not be in a situation where we fear for our lives, it will almost always mean risk and vulnerability.
When we take the time to count our blessings from God, we may wonder why He showers so many on us. Our first thought may be that God blesses us because He loves us as His children. That is correct! There is, however, more to it than that. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 remind us that God gives specific gifts to each of His children for the profit of all. Christians, in turn, as individuals and communities, are called to use those gifts to impart the Gospel to those who do not yet know Christ as their Savior.
As alluded to previously, that will probably not be an easy or comfortable thing for Christians to do. Will I stumble over my words? Will I say the wrong thing? What if they get angry? What if they don’t like me anymore? Sharing our faith may feel like a very risky thing to do!
In Genesis 12 we read that the L ord told Abram to leave his country and go to a land that God would show him. Abram did what God told him without questioning. God promised to be with him and bless him but didn’t tell him where he was going. Abram simply trusted God with what lay in the future. Jesus beckons us to go through life in the power of the Gospel, while proclaiming that same Gospel. We trust Him to go with us and bless us, and we leave what the future holds in His hands. It won’t always be comfortable, but Jesus will work all things together for good.