Every Christ follower is called to … reach out to the lost with grace and truth.
- Randall Murphree
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5, NASB).
On one level, Jonah’s story is one of my favorites in the entire Bible. It’s a riveting narrative. Jonah questions God, rebels and runs from God, hides (he thinks), has a harrowing near-death experience, grudgingly obeys God, and remains angry.
To recap, more specifically, here’s what happened to Jonah. God commanded him to go preach in Ninevah. Jonah rebelled and stowed away on an outgoing ship. Shipmates threw him overboard, and a great fish swallowed him whole. He prayed to God for three days before the fish vomited him up. Jonah hightailed it to Ninevah, preached, and God drew the people to Himself. But Jonah was still angry because God saved a rebellious and unrighteous people.
So, no, I’m not saying Jonah’s a role model; he sounds too much like me.
Ironically, we don’t know if Jonah’s attitude changed much at all. His last recorded words are “I’m angry enough to die!” A gripping drama, but what a sad ending.
Confession time: In my own experience, I’ve demonstrated all of Jonah’s negative attitudes and behaviors at some time and on some level. But I pray that my story won’t end with me angry at God.
At least, maybe I can be a bit more like Jude. Jude wrote to fellow believers in “mercy and peace and love” (v. 2). But his tone quickly changed; he had a mixed message, and he wrote with mixed emotions. He wrote with love, but he also had an unpleasant and convicting challenge for them because false teachers were deceiving them:
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (vv. 3-4).
I pray that my interaction with other Christians and non-believers alike – in print, on the screen, via email, face to face, by telephone, by text – will be marked not only by the challenge for all of us to acknowledge and confront the “licentiousness” advocated by the world and too often allowed by the church. But at the same time, I want my words to show evidence of the mercy and peace and love with which Jude balanced his message.
More confession: Over the past year of political and cultural chaos that has rocked our nation, I know I’ve used some careless and confrontational words with friends and acquaintances. It’s not that I intended to hurt, but simply that I wanted to “prove my point.” And I guess that, at least subconsciously, I wrapped myself in a robe of false righteousness. And that’s not where I want to be.
My heart’s desire is to reflect both grace and truth – the grace of Jesus and the truth, even the hard truths, of the gospel. One of my heroes of the faith is Randy Alcorn, founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.
Randy addresses this balance in a little book titled The Grace and Truth Paradox. With personal experience as a pastor, pro-life ministry leader, best-selling author, and noted speaker, he illustrates how one can, indeed, demonstrate both elements in one’s life. Members of the body of Christ are not meant to choose sides – one saying, “We’re called to preach the hard truths of Scripture” and the other saying, “We’re called only to show God’s love and grace.” Every Christ follower is called to do both – reach out to the lost with grace and truth.
In Philippians 2, Paul challenges the reader to consider the virtues of Jesus Himself. Yes, we’ve all counted on Christ’s angry cleansing of the Temple and other denouncements of sin. But I want my attitude to be that “which was also in Christ Jesus” (v. 5).
Paul reminds us of the high and holy character of our Savior. He is humble (vv. 7-8) and obedient to His Father (v. 8). He is loving (v. 8 – death on a cross, no less). He is exalted and praiseworthy (vv. 9-11). He is pleasant and calm (v. 14) and blameless (v. 15). That’s where I really want my life to come down.
Finally, He is the light of the world (v. 15) and the word of life (v. 16). I can’t be those two things, but with His power and presence, I can reflect His light with my life and His Word with my words.