Think about all the calls we get in a dayís time. Some are important, some not so important, some just a nuisance. Many times, we donít even want to answer the call, because it seems like every call requires something from us. Something else we have to do, or somewhere we have to go, or something thatís going to cost us something.
Let me ask you something: Is there anyone who has hurt you, used you, mistreated you, lied to you, or about you? Are there people in your life you donít feel deserve to be loved? You know, thatís exactly how Jonah felt, when God sent him to preach to the Ninevites.
Thatís one call Jonah certainly didnít want to take! It required him to do something he didnít want to do, and go somewhere he didnít want to go, alright.
Jonah tried to run away from his call. God had told him to go to Ninevah, which was due east; instead, he took off for Joppa, which was due west. He went exactly opposite the way God told him to go, just as far as he could in the opposite direction. Have any of you ever done that? Gone just the opposite of where God told you to go, or done the opposite of what He told you to do? Weíve all been guilty of that, havenít we?
Jonah didnít want to preach repentence to the Ninevites. They were a pagan nation, full of violence against Godís people and others, worshiping other gods. They did not deserve Godís love and His mercy, according to Jonahís way of thinking! There are often people in our lives that we think do not deserve Godís love and grace and mercy. Oh, we pay lip-service, alright --- but our hearts arenít in it. And just as God showed Jonah, the problem is in our hearts. Itís whatís inside that cause the trouble.
Itís always whatís on the inside that causes the problem. When we have a rebellious heart, we think we can ignore Godís call and get by with it. Well, we all know how Jonahís rebellion turned out. That was the first time in history that a fish caught a man, instead of the other way around!
Jonahís rebellion didnít affect only him--- it had a tremendous effect on the people around him --- the others in the boat. In fact, they can close to capsizing and drowning, because of Jonah. We need to realize that our rebellions affect those around us, as well as ourselves. When we ignore Godís call to love others, far too often, they will capsize and drown in the dark sea of sin.
You know, almost all the phones we have now have caller ID, so we can just ignore the calls we donít want to take Ė have you ever done that? We know we have a call, but we just donít answer it. We know itís going to cost us something.
Well, as Christians, we know we have a call to love, so, the question is this: are we going to answer the call? Because just like a lot of the phone calls we get in the course of a day, this call is going to cost us something. Itís going to require something from us; itís going to require that we DO something Ė perhaps something that we donít want to do.
Just like there have been many telephone calls I havenít wanted to take, there have been calls from God I didnít want to take. Iíve spent some uncomfortable times myself, when Iíve tried to run away from Godís call. For instance, when we first began having ladies Bible studies here at the church, I had never had any idea of becoming a teacher. Even when I was told by the lady who started our studies that she felt like God was calling me to teach, I had no intention of ever doing so. I tried to run away from what God was calling me to do by pretending I didnít hear His call. I knew He was calling me to teach, but I thought my internet ministry was all that He wanted. You see, itís much easier when itís on the internet. You have anonymity in cyberspace. Believe me, itís much easier when you are anonymous!
You know why I didnít want to answer the call to be a teacher? Iím ashamed to even admit my selfishness. I didnít want to teach, first, because teachers are held to a higher degree of accountability, according to Godís word. Also. it would require a much greater effort on my part than I wanted to make. It would take up a lot of my time. It would cost me something. So I tried to ignore the call of God on my life, rationalizing that I was teaching, through the internet. Doing it my way, instead of Godís way.
Why donít we ever just make it easy on ourselves and do it Godís way to start with? We KNOW He is going to have His way, whether we cooperate or not. So why donít we learn to bend our stiff necks and simply say, ďYes, Lord.Ē We'd sure save ourselves a lot of problems if we'd just learn to do it God's way, every time.
In the same way, God has called me to love some people that I just didnít want to love. But hereís the thing: If we are Christians, we are called to love. Thereís just no getting around it.
Do you have any Ninevites in your own life? Those people whom you just canít love? Those people who donít deserve Godís love and His mercy, according to your way of thinking? The ones who have hurt you, have lied to you or about you, or have plotted against you. The ones who gossip about you behind your back. In-laws who are more like outlaws, people you canít seem to please no matter what you do. Family members who constantly criticize, condemn, and tear you down, who never have a good word to say, who seem to suck the life right out of you. Itís hard, I know, but we are called to loveÖ.. even when we do not receive love in return. Even when it seems useless. Even when it seems unfair.
If we are honest, weíd admit that most of the time, we want to share our love with those who love us, those who ďdeserveĒ our love. We donít want to love those who have brought us grief, or suffering. We donít want to love those who have offended us in some way, or those that we consider enemies. No, like Jonah, weíd really prefer for God to just destroy themÖ.. or at least get them out of our hair.
There are many groups of people in our society that are hard to love. Think of all the elderly people in nursing homes who have no one to show them a little touch of human kindness, day in and day out. Yes, maybe they are crotchety and cranky, maybe they are difficult, hard of hearing and hard to deal with. But God loves them, and we are called to loveÖÖ.
Think of the young people who seem to be in rebellion against everything. Tattoos, body piecings, strange clothing, all black leather and chains. Some of them scare you half to death Ö..they seem to hate everyone and everything. But God loves them, and we are called to loveÖ..
What about the homeless people who wander the streets, wearing rags for clothes, unshaved, unbathed, unbrushed, and smelling like yesterdayís garbage, with a strong odor of alcohol on top of it all. Yes, They are smelly and undesirable, but God loves them. And we are also called to loveÖÖ.
Or think about those spending their days behind bars, just marking time. Criminals, hoping to beat the system. Hoping for anything to shorten their sentence, knowing they donít deserve mercy, that they gotten exactly what they deserve. You know, the worst thing in the world is getting what we deserve. Somehow nothing makes us angrier than getting what we deserve. They may be sullen, disrespectful, sarcastic, or downright mean and hateful, but God loves themÖ and we are called to love.
Some people just donít like anyone else who is different in any wayÖ anyone too fat, too old, different skin color, different race or nationality, different religionsÖÖBut we are called to loveÖ..
Think of all the lost and rejected people in our society. Drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, gang members, those in mental hospitals, or the mentally or physically handicapped, Ö. The list is long and varied. God loves each and every one of the people we consider the dregs of humanity. He doesnít love their sins, but He loves them every bit as much as He love you and me. And if we call ourselves Christians, we are called to love them, too.
We are so wrapped up in ourselves most of the time, we donít feel a Christ-like love for the misfits and rejects around us. Many times, we donít even have a Christ-like love toward those in our immediate environment Ė some of our own family members, our in-laws and our out-laws - far less those outside of our little circle. Far too often we donít have a Christ-like love for those around us who are suffering, for those with problems far beyond our ability to help. It makes us uncomfortable. So we try to ignore the call.
Loving others is what sets Christians apart from all the other people in the world, it is our whole purpose here on this earth. Jesus was very clear about that. He said:
We are called to love. Get our minds off our own selfish wants and needs, and focus on the needs of the lost and dying world around us. Itís going to cost us something. Jesus taught us, in Luke 9:23 :
We are called to love. The only way we can do that is to deny ourselves, our own wants and feelings. And we have to do it daily, not just once or twice in a lifetime. We have
to stop thinking of our own selfish ways and what we want to do, and start thinking of what God wants us to do Ė to love others as ourselves. To take our minds and our thoughts off of ourselves, and look at the needs of the world around us.
Not just our own immediate families, although thatís certainly the place to start. But Jesus told us:
No, Jesus didnít call us to love just those in our immediate circle, but to love all the unloved and unloveable people in the world. All the rejected, unaccepted. and unacceptable people out there. At all the lost people out there, dying and facing eternity without Jesus. If we call ourselves followers of Christ, we are called to love, because He loved us. 1 John 4:19 puts it very plainly: