What is the church for?

As I read the Book of Jonah, I see three answers to this question, two of which are wrong. The church is for the condemnation of outsiders, the comfort of insiders, or a true loving concern for the lost. Let's take a look at each answer.

The first wrong answer is that the church is for the condemnation of outsiders. Having read Jonah, you might actually think this is the right answer. After all, according to Jonah 1:2, when God first called Jonah, He commissioned him to "preach against Nineveh, because its wickedness has come up before me."

And according to Jonah 3:4, when Jonah finally arrived in Nineveh, the content of his message was very negative: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." Jonah's God-given mission seems to have been a message of judgment and condemnation. “That’s it! “It’s Over!!” 

To many Christians seem to think condemnation is the church's mission to the world. They believe the church should loudly denounce the world's sins. But what they fail to take into account is Jonah's initial response to God's call. Jonah ran from God not because he feared the Lord would condemn the Ninevites but because he thought God would give them grace.

In Jonah 4:2, Jonah says this to God, "That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." The message of judgment was simply a wake up call to the city!

The second wrong answer is that the church is just for the “insiders”. There is only one time in the book when Jonah is described as being "very happy." It wasn't when the great fish placed him securely on the shores of Israel. And it wasn't when the Ninevites repented. According to Jonah 4:6, it was only when God provided a plant as a cover over Jonah, protecting him from the hot, scorching sun.

Jonah was "very happy" only when his personal comfort was satisfied. He was OK with God raining down judgment on the heads of the Ninevites. He only cared about the how hot the sun was shining down on him. Unfortunately, some churches are like this. Their members are only happy when they derive some benefit from the ministries of the church. They could care less about the unbelievers outside the church.

The right answer is that a caring, loving concern for the lost is what the church is for. God himself provides the model for this answer. We see in Jonah 4:11, God says to Jonah, "Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left. … Should I not be concerned about this great city?"

God cares about EVERYONE, even the people who don't know Him yet. 

God, break my heart for what breaks yours.

Blessings on your day!

 

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