We began our new series "Drama & Dedication: The Life of the Prophets" this Sunday! Throughout this series we will take a look at ten of the Old Testament Prophets. For our first week, we took a look at Jonah, who some call the "unprophet". We usually think of prophets as people who did whatever God asked them...but Jonah was a little different. When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance, Jonah ran in the opposite direction. Eventually, he finally makes it to Nineveh (after enduring a storm, being thrown overboard on a ship, and living in the belly of a fish for three days), but it would have been a lot quicker and probably easier if he had just gone straight to Nineveh from the beginning.
We discussed how we are often like Jonah--running away from God's instrustions for us. We take the longer route and often end up enduring more hardships and wasting a lot more energy than if we had simply done what God had asked us from the start. We split into middle and high school groups and dug a little deeper into some of God's instructions for our lives, such as loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48), obeying our parents and honoring our father and mother (Ephesians 6:1-3), listening and following the Word of God (James 1:22-26), loving our neighbors and not showing favoritism (James 2:1-9), and living in harmony with one another and being compassionate and humble (1 Peter 3:8-17). We talked about how when we avoid God's instructions, it can have many negative effects on both ourselves and those around us.
Ultimately, Jonah's story is about God's love being for EVERYONE, not just some. The Ninevites were nasty mean people, yet they repented and God extended his love to them rather than destroying them. Even after Jonah finally made it to Ninevah and was successful in conveying God's message to the Ninevites, Jonah still didn't believe that God could truly love those people. Jonah sat there waiting for God to destroy the city. But God "had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened" (Jonah 3:10).
As a challenge for the week, we each wrote down the name of someone we know who could really use God's grace and love. It may have been someone who is really mean like the Ninevites. It may have been someone who is hurting or suffering and needs to hear about God's love for them. I challenged the students, and now I'm challenging you, to put that slip of paper with the person's name on it somewhere where you will see it every day this week. Maybe put it under your pillow, or on your bathroom mirror, or on your bedroom door. Put it some place that you look every day. Then, every time you see that name, pray for that person. Also, I want you to commit to finding a way to show that person God's love this week. Maybe it is by smiling at them or giving them a hug. Maybe it's inviting them to church next Sunday, or sitting with them at lunch. Maybe its helping them with homework or work. Whatever it is, find a way to show them God's love this week, being careful not to be like Jonah and run in the opposite direction of what God is calling you to do for this person.
So, I'm wondering, what are some things you are thinking about doing in order to show God's love for that particular person this week? Comment on this post with your answers.
See you next week as we take a look at the prophet Amos!