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Jesus and his followers lived the truth Jonah missed

July 2, 2022
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Daily Scripture

Matthew 28:19, Mark 13:10, Luke 24:47, Acts 15:14-18

Matthew 28

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Mark 13

10 First, the good news must be proclaimed to all the nations.

Luke 24

47 and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Acts 15

14 Simon reported how, in his kindness, God came to the Gentiles in the first place, to raise up from them a people of God. 15 The prophets’ words agree with this; as it is written,

16 After this I will return,
and I will rebuild David’s fallen tent;
I will rebuild what has been torn down.
I will restore it
17 so that the rest of humanity will seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who belong to me.
The Lord says this, the one who does these things [Amos 9:11-12]
18 known from earliest times.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The book of Jonah showed a prophet who wanted God’s mercy for himself (and his people) but found it “utterly wrong” that God showed mercy to foreigners in the Assyrian capital, Nineveh. The gospels were clear that Jesus wanted the good news of God’s gracious love shared with “all nations.” In Acts 15, some of Jesus’ first followers struggled with that. The apostle Paul preached Jesus’ good news to the Gentile (i.e. not Jewish) Mediterranean world. “Some people came down from Judea teaching the family of believers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom we’ve received from Moses, you can’t be saved’….Some believers from among the Pharisees stood up and claimed, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised. They must be required to keep the Law from Moses’” (Acts 15:1, 5). James, Jesus’ half-brother who led the Jerusalem church, quoted the Old Testament prophet Amos to show that God had always wanted his love to reach all nations.

  • Pastor John Ortberg wrote, “Two of the most powerful words in the human race are us and them…. For Jesus, the categories break down like this: It’s not us and them. It’s perfect and not perfect. It’s holy and sinful. Which puts all of humanity on the same side: the wrong side. But Jesus was determined to make that his side….he never succumbed to the in-group bias. He continually communicated an intent to love those who should have been them. Those of us in the church often get this wrong. Other religions, other ethnicities, other cultures, other sexual behavior, other politics, other denominations—what have we not allowed to turn people into them?” * For Jonah, God’s love was only for us, not them. Search your heart, asking God to identify your “us” and your “them.” Then pray that God will help you learn from Jonah that God calls you to live beyond those human distinctions.
Prayer

Dear Jesus, modern DNA studies have showed how much more we humans are alike than we are different. But you always knew that. Help me keep learning that lesson, too. Amen.

GPS Insights

Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Adult Discipleship Director at the Leawood location of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

(Melanie first shared this thought-provoking Insight in 2018.)

I went to college at Weber State University in Utah, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountain Range and the gateway to great skiing. I wasn’t supposed to be doing any skiing, since my volleyball coach was sure we would all break our legs and have to sit out a year. But how can you live in Utah and not enjoy the wonderful powder beckoning you to hit the slopes? It’s part of what makes Utah so special.

Another unique thing in Utah is the high percentage of people who practice the Mormon religion. I grew up in a Christian home in southern California, so I wasn’t very familiar with the Latter-Day Saints before moving to Utah. To say that my immersion into that culture was a little shock would be an understatement. Every player on my team was Mormon. At first, they were friendly and put up with my questions about what they believed, but as weeks turned to months and they realized I wasn’t looking to convert, the reception was a little less warm.

One weekend when we were on the road for a tournament and found ourselves in a hotel on Sunday morning, the team decided to hold their own church service. As the sole non-Mormon I wasn’t invited. It hurt, and as I sat alone in my hotel room I had to reflect on my own attitude. Had my questions to them seemed judgmental? Were they divisive?

It didn’t feel good to be left out simply because I didn’t share their religion. The more I had studied the Mormon faith the more I had discovered that there were many things we didn’t agree on, but there was some common ground we shared. This came home clearly to me on another road trip a few weeks later.

I was assigned to room with a teammate whose father was battling stage four lung cancer. The prognosis wasn’t good, and she had just received a call from her mother letting her know that he had been rejected for yet another trial. I watched her sit on the edge of her bed and break down in tears. As I wrapped my arms around her and cried with her, I realized that we had even more in common. We all grieve at the suffering of our loved ones and yearn to make sense of it. We all cry out to God for help and comfort in time of need.

I asked if I could pray for her and we spent the next thirty minutes in prayer with tears running down our cheeks. That night turned into a pivotal moment with my teammates. Slowly but surely, we started to break down the religious walls between us. The next season when we found ourselves on the road on a Sunday everyone was invited to join in “hotel church.” I found myself in more and more conversations about what I believed as a Christian, and listened as they explained what they believed with the understanding that no one was looking to convert. Those relationships and conversations strengthened and grew my own faith, and I am so grateful for each one.

They taught me something else. Staying in my own faith bubble community where everyone agrees with me never taught me nearly as much about my own faith as having to explain it to someone who doesn’t agree with me. My years in Utah expanded my world view and made my faith richer for it.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Ortberg, John; Ortberg, John. Excerpts from chapter 7, “Help Your Friends, Punish Your Enemies” in Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.