Who are your Ninevites?
Hey there. Can I ask a favor of you before you read this?
Log out of Facebook. In fact, “x out” of the entire tab. Turn off the cable news … and take a deep breath.
Now I have a question for you: Who are your Ninevites?
Let me explain. Last month I attended a Christian retreat called The Weekend in the Oregon desert. The Weekend is full of people of different ages, hometowns (home states, home countries), genders and races.
Maybe it’s the “retreat” setting, or the lack of cell service — but every year, The Weekend challenges me to open up to other people a little more.
Our keynote speaker talked about Jonah. You might remember that Jonah ran from God’s call to preach to the city of Ninevah. Then he became whale food. Then when he prayed from inside the whale, God had it spit him out. Then He told Jonah again to preach to the Ninevites.
Jonah obeyed this time. But when God used Jonah’s preaching to save the Ninevites, Jonah was angry. He knew God would show mercy, and he didn’t want Him to.
Can you imagine being mad at God for saving someone? Can you imagine telling someone to “go to hell” and meaning it? I’m sure none of us has ever had that attitude. Right?
To be fair, the Ninevites were the kind of people who beat and killed their enemies and then smeared their blood on the city gates for good measure. So Jonah’s fear, and even his hatred, were understandable.
But if he can preach to an entire city that he hated — and if God can use his begrudging obedience to save that city — surely He can help us (take a deep breath again) do the hard work of racial reconciliation with willing hearts. This task belongs to the church and is part of our duty to love our neighbor — every neighbor — as ourselves.
Each week, Christians of different races are praying together in Mississippi. That’s because God has used Mission Mississippi, the focus of our two cover stories starting on page 22. There you’ll find redemptive friendships and a couple of “Mission Mississippi moments.”
And you might be surprised at how many churches in the greater Jackson area are making diversity a priority — not for diversity’s sake, but because they want to reflect their communities and the kingdom of God and welcome all people to meet Jesus (page 18).
In addition to being Racial Reconciliation Month, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we have prevention tips courtesy of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi on page 14. And don’t miss the story of St. Richard Catholic School’s Special Kids program on page 12.
But back to those Ninevites: Who are yours? Who is it whom you can’t stand, don’t want to talk to and certainly don’t want to befriend? Is it African-Americans? White Americans? Men, women, millennials, boomers? Liberals? Conservatives? Certain family members? Don’t worry, I have a few “Ninevites” of my own.
And I’m not here to tell you they’re perfect. Scripture assures us they’re not — and neither are we. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” — Romans 3:23.
Let’s pray for those we dislike. Pray for opportunities to show them love; to listen to them; to talk with them; to do ministry with them. Sometimes we think we can love them from afar. But if we remember how God loves us — enough that He took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1) — we know that’s not true.
Chances are, there’s a problem in your community that’s too big for you to tackle alone. And chances are, God will hook you up with someone unlike yourself to take it on. After all, He used the 12 apostles — made up of poor fishermen, a rich tax collector and a “zealot” (read: possible terrorist), among others — to evangelize the known world.
Speaking of evangelism, “Love thy neighbor” means we must love unbelievers, too. Because if we try to preach the gospel of Christ without loving like Christ, Scripture and common sense tell us our words will ring hollow, like a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).
We are all Ninevites who deserve God’s judgment. But Jesus absorbed that judgment for us on the cross. And He didn’t stay dead. Praise God!
Let’s trust in that, celebrate it and live it out — with all our neighbors