A man I once knew had reached the end of his tether, fell to his knees and cried out: ‘Oh God if you are real, show yourself to me!’
That man was Derek Prince, and although many of us have done the same, few have had the life-changing experience that Derek had. It propelled him into a life of Christian service for over four decades until he died 10 years ago at the age of almost 90.
Could it be that when we cry out thus, we have a fixed view of what God is like and we don’t want our image of him to be challenged? Our view might be of an overpowering, demanding God who will punish those whom we don’t like, or whose religion we don’t approve of.
That was the Old Testament character Jonah’s problem. God sent him to the great city of Nineveh to warn the ‘heathens’, those whose religion was ‘satanic’, whose doctrines had been ‘spawned in hell’, that they must change their ways, repent and turn to him or face destruction.
In other words, Jonah’s God loved the people of Nineveh, and wanted them to come to know him.
But Jonah wasn’t happy with that proposed outcome. He wanted them to be seen for what they were, he wanted them to be ostracised, to be left alone until the time would come for them to feel the heat of God’s wrath.
So Jonah’s first reaction was to turn away from these objects of God’s mercy, to refuse to engage with them. ‘After all,’ he argued, ‘they deserve to die in their depravity. It is we who are God’s chosen people. We don’t want that sort in our community!’
And we all know how God responded to that: the story of the wrecked ship and the great fish.
At length, Jonah made the trip, told the story of God’s love and mercy and grace, and guess what, the wicked people of Nineveh believed him, turned to his God and received his forgiveness and peace.
And Jonah was delighted – NOT!
‘How dare God show those infidels his mercy! Sure even the dogs in the street know you can’t trust one of them, they’re all the same!’
Now, I don’t normally watch the Nolan Show, and I have to say that I have difficulty taking George Galloway seriously, having seen him dressed up as a cat and lapping milk from a lady’s hand on the reality TV show, Celebrity Big Brother.
But what I found almost frightening the other evening while watching the said show was the seething fury of an individual in the audience, clearly an avid supporter of the pastor of whom we all know I speak.
One look at the man’s face would dispel any possible doubt that words, even words spoken in good faith - and who am I to judge? - can incite hatred and anger.
Christians are drawn into God’s Kingdom by exposure to the ‘Gospel of Peace.’
The word Islam means ‘Peace’. Could it be that there are some in the Christians community who neither understand nor exhibit peace, grace and mercy, and if so, could it be that they have more in common with the militant brand of Islam that they might be prepared to admit?