Read His Words Before Ours!
“Let no debt remain among you except the debt of love.” (Romans 13:8 NIV)
Jesus spoke these words hundreds of years after Jonah as He engaged His disciples, pulling them into deeper truth, deeper faith, and inviting them into a deeper investment of their lives.
But they speak to Jonah’s story, and ours.
As my pastor tells it, there are two kinds of debt in this life.
One: Christi borrowed $20 from Lilly to pay for her daughter’s school pictures, because while standing in line for pictures, she realized her checkbook was at home. (names changed to protect…um, myself ;-)) I became indebted to my friend; I owed her $20.
Two: Christi gave me her daughter’s laptop and asked me to give it to her daughter when I pick her up after school. I have now been “gifted” debt. I willingly take on debt as I hold onto the laptop, becoming responsible for its care and safekeeping and for being a good steward of the laptop by passing it onto Christi’s daughter. I am indebted to Christi’s daughter until I pass on the laptop.
Jesus was talking about the second scenario in this passage about love.
It’s a debt, of Christ’s love, that every Christ-follower has been gifted,
but we have an obligation to pass it on to others.
We are indebted to those who have not heard or experienced this divine love.
We know nothing else of Jonah except this brief snippet in his life. He was a prophet to the Jews, and probably, like other prophets of the Lord, his job was to call God’s people to return, to come away from sin’s grip, and delight in the sweet depth and intimacy of a relationship with the Lord God alone.
He worshipped the Lord. (Jonah 1:9)
He had a distinct calling on his life. (Jonah 1:1-2)
He had experienced God’s gracious goodness in his own life. (Jonah 4:2)
But he became stingy with grace.
Jonah would rather hoard it than gift it.
He was in debt, but he didn’t care.
With other prophets, God allowed their oracles, their speeches, their spoken words to be written down and preserved in the canon of Scripture. Prophets like, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Haggai, and a bunch of others.
But with Jonah, we don’t get to hear his preaching,
instead we hear his life, loud and clear.
The Lord knew that this man’s life was a more powerful message for us, and the audience who heard and re-told Jonah’s story, than his preaching ever would be.
Sisters, we need the story of Jonah’s life.
This grace in which we stand, as daughters of the Most High God?
We’ve been called to steward it, to give it away because we are indebted to others.
This gift is so rich, the cost of its greatness should weigh down on our souls with passionate pursuit of others.
It’s beauty, while drawing us closer to the gospel itself, should move us to share it.
The sweet fullness of its all-encompassing grace and truth should overwhelm us with awe for the sheer majesty of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ that our response is to shout it out.
The overflow of a life bound up in delight of the gospel,
is to steward grace!
What does that look like exactly?
I’d like to let Frank answer that.
Frank Laubach moved with his wife to the Philippine Islands in 1915 for the purpose of sharing the love of Jesus with the natives there. Frank knew that he was the Lord’s and he clearly wanted to do much for God, yet he kept finding himself sinking into a “profound dissatisfaction in (his) Christian life.” And so, he resolved to “fill every minute full of the thought of God….and to be as wide open toward people and their need as I am to God.”*
The more that Frank gave himself over to knowing the Father God more intimately and training himself to be disciplined in his pursuit of the Almighty,
the more he recognized himself loving others better, seeing their need, and stewarding grace.
What if Jonah’s story had been different?
What if he had been okay getting uncomfortable for the sake of the Lord?
What if he allowed God to break his heart for the natives of Nineveh?
What if he looked full into the face of Yahweh and, in rapt love and adoration for His incomparable grace, could do nothing else but proclaim that grace to all.
Even (especially) the ones he wanted to run from.
Yes, we need Jonah’s story.
Because, while Jonah’s story ended, ours is still continuing.
Just like Jonah, we are indebted to love.
But we still have the opportunity to steward grace.
*Excerpt taken from Devotional Classics, edited by Richard J Foster and James Bryan Smith, pg 101
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!