Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me. (Jonah 1:2 ESV)
Do you see the condition of the world around you? Do you see it through God’s eyes?
Do you see that phrase “…for their evil has come up before me”? Many translations, such as the NASB, KJV and the CSB, use the word “wickedness” in the place “evil.” The Hebrew word translated as “evil” could also be translated “disaster.”
When I look out at the world, and when I take that look through the lens of scripture, I see moral disaster. I see evil. I see wickedness.
God calls his church to wade into the fray of the wickedness. He calls us to live love and proclaim truth. We should look with compassion-laden, action oriented pity at the blind, lost world around us.
You probably know the story of Jonah. God called Jonah to warn Nineveh of God’s impending judgment. Jonah didn’t want to obey God, so he ran from his calling. After some rather convincing pursuit by the Lord, Jonah finally obeyed. He preached a six-word sermon and an entire city repented.
Jonah’s response to the people’s repentance was strange. Jonah was bitter. He didn’t really like the Assyrian people. In Jonah 4:2, Jonah tells why he didn’t want to obey God: “And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (ESV)
Isn’t that wild? Jonah knew God would be compassionate to the people of Nineveh, so Jonah didn’t want to carry the good news of God’s kindness to the city.
Jonah preached; Nineveh repented. Afterward, irony of ironies, Jonah goes to sit in the shade, and when the plant shrivels up and dies, Jonah has pity on the dying plant. Don’t miss it; Jonah had pity on a dying plant, but didn’t have pity on spiritually dead people. The Bible says, “But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?’” (Jonah 4:9-11 ESV)
Many of us are just like Jonah. We have misdirected pity. Instead of pitying the lost and carrying the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, we choose to put our attention on other things besides the gospel.
Do we see the world as it truly is? Do we see people as they are? Do we see the coming judgment of God? Do we lovingly warn and compassionately proclaim the good news in Jesus Christ?