By Juan Sanchez
We have real enemies in this world. Americans, for example, can think about the attack on Pearl Harbor or the events of 9-11.
While God has given governments the sword of justice to punish evil and promote good, including providing the necessary military to protect citizens, what should the church’s response be? How should Christians think about their enemies?
This was Jonah’s dilemma. The Assyrians presented a true terrorist threat to Jonah’s people. And yet, the Lord called him to go to Nineveh—one of the great cities of the Assyrian empire—with a message of judgment.
Jonah indicates he knew God’s prophetic warnings of judgment might be conditional on the response of the wicked.
If the Ninevites continued in their sin, God would pour out the promised judgment. If they repented, though, perhaps God would relent and grant them forgiveness.
This was Jonah’s concern. He didn’t want Nineveh to receive mercy. He wanted them to receive the justice they deserved.
It’s easy to sympathize with Jonah. We, too, want justice for those who deserve it. Instead, though, God wanted to show Nineveh mercy, so he sent Jonah.
Likewise, the Lord also sends us out to all nations. So, while the government has to respond militarily to attacks against its citizens, as Christians, our response is always missionary.
So, how can we cultivate a heart for the nations, even nations that may want to kill us? Allow me to offer five ways:
1. Rehearse the gospel—the good news of God’s mercy toward repentant sinners.
God can forgive sinners and remain just because He’s punished Jesus in our place. Jesus took on our humanity and lived a life of perfect obedience.
But He also went to the cross and received God’s justice on behalf of repentant sinners. The gospel reminds us God is both holy and loving. He’s full of both justice and mercy.
2. Remember your conversion—the good news of God’s mercy toward you.
You came into this world deserving God’s just judgment because you were born a sinner, hostile to God, and engaged in evil deeds.
Instead, God showed you mercy by saving you, in Christ, and forgiving you of your sins. Meditate on the fact you deserve God’s just wrath.
If there is hope for Nineveh, there’s hope for you.
3. Study the doctrine of hell.
We may say we believe in hell, but do we understand it? Hell is God’s eternal, conscious punishment for unrepentant sinners. It’s what we all deserve, but it’s not what we, who believe in Christ, receive.
As we study the doctrine of hell, it should move us to compassion for those who are without Christ.
4. Learn about the nations—their spiritual needs and God’s work among them.
As you learn about the nations and their needs, pray specifically for them.
5. Finally, become involved in the Lord’s commission to go to the nations.
- Pray for the Lord to raise up workers for gospel advancement.
- Give to gospel work happening among the nations. This is one reason we take up an offering each Sunday at our church.
- Go on missions! Go short-term, long-term, or as a career. We who serve as church leaders can help our people walk through the questions that surround such decisions.
- Go across the street. Practice personal evangelism now.
- Go across the ocean. Get a passport and take a trip.
May the Lord grant us much grace as we encourage our people and strive to cultivate, in our churches, a heart for the nations.