I remember taking an Intro to Missions class in seminary, and I really enjoyed it. One of the major sections of the class was the biblical basis for international missions. Of course, a lot of Christians are familiar with “the Great Commission” found in the last three verses in Matthew, and there’s some type of worldwide mandate to spread the Good News in every one of the Gospels, and of course this theme runs throughout Acts and the Epistles. God’s plan to redeem people out of every nation is found on almost every page in the N.T. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that God’s plan for bringing all the nations back to himself is found in many places in the Old Testament as well, starting with Genesis 12:1-3. The Lord desires people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and nations to be adopted (as equals) into his family, and the Gospels are not the first place he’s displayed this desire.
Ruth came from Moab, which was one of Israel’s worst enemy in the book of Numbers, and was responsible for thousands of Hebrews dying under God’s judgment (remember Balaam?). But as we saw with Rahab, God always stood with open arms for any Gentile who would sincerely turn to him.
Our Savior certainly didn’t come from an all-Jewish ancestry. The happy couple in Ruth married and produced Obed, who was the grandfather of David, through whom the Messiah eventually came. And anyone who thinks that the Jewish people were somehow more righteous than Gentiles hasn’t read the Old Testament: It’s filled with page after depressing page about how bad Israel was acting.
I wonder sometimes if we fall into this trap of ethnocentrism without even realizing it. I mean, hopefully most of us have gotten past racism as far as Black/White relations are concerned, and it’s hard to ignore the explosion of the Church in the East-Asian world, such as in Korea. In fact, there are more non-white than white Christians in the world. But what about the Arab world? Have we written them off? “They’re all Muslims, and they’re closed-minded, they’re terrorists, and they’re hardened to the Gospel.” It is true that the most under-evangelized sections of the world are in the NAME area (North African, Middle East), but one of the most under-told stories of the last few decades has been the rise of the Church among Arabs and other traditionally Muslim peoples. It’s been largely unknown partially because the church there has to be mostly underground: Most Muslim majority countries outlaw the propagation of the Gospel, and have severe penalties for any converts to Christianity from Islam. But just because it's not in the headlines, that doesn't mean the Lord isn't doing incredible work in those areas. He is.
So do we really believe that God doesn’t want anyone to perish and all to come to repentance, or are we going to let our prejudices and (justified) anger at terrorism blind us? Is our heart in tune with our Father’s?
Father God, your desire is to finally give your Son his inheritance, the nations of the world. What can I do to help make that happen?
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