Reach out to the unreachable

Listen to the message here:

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. — 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

As we emerge from lockdown, we face a world that is very different to the one that we faced previously. There’s a nervousness, a hesitancy to mingle with others, and a tendency to remain hidden and withdrawn. It’s not everywhere, or in every situation, but the bars and restaurants in many places are quiet and the numbers that would previously crowd in have remained away. We’ve become distant and try to remain unreachable. Unreachable by the still circulating virus at least. 

But it comes at a cost. There’s a coldness and a barrenness despite the coming of the spring and the warmth of the emerging sun. We are not so closely connected as we were previously, and our relationships are somehow more distant and strained. We are not so welcoming to strangers, to outsiders, and we refrain from reaching out into more distant shores. Indeed, we are told not to travel to many parts of the world.

And there’s a danger in this. There’s a danger that we become less accepting, less tolerant, less willing to accept others, and less willing to reach out to the unreachable. We are less willing to reach out to those who are suffering and struggling. We are less willing to reach out to the lost, the least, the lonely and certainly to the lepers. Indeed, if we come into contact with the dreaded virus in any way, we are to become lepers, and are told to self-isolate. We are told to isolate ourselves, we are told to become unreachable to others.

Of course, all this is alien to our nature. We are social beings, and we long to reach out to others. We crave community and connection. And we have compassion for those who are unreachable, for whatever reason, and compassion is a compulsion to take action. We feel compelled to reach out and to offer help and support.

Of course, that doesn’t always come naturally. Throughout history, we have shied away from difficult shores, we have held back from reaching out when we needed some courage to do so. Jonah was such a character. He was given a mission – he was commissioned by God Himself – to visit a well-known city that was in desperate need of help. It was a city that was wrought by wickedness, saturated in sin and sordid deeds, and destined for destruction. It was a city that was unreachable, in the eyes of Jonah. And his response was to run away.

Jonah ran as fast as he could, found a ship that was travelling in the completely opposite direction and jumped on board. He just wanted to get away, far from this place where he had been told to go. That city was not only unreachable, it was dangerous, and populated by people he actually hated. Yes, he hated the people of the city. They were foreigners to him, and they did not share Jonah’s beliefs or his faith in God, they were far away. It wasn’t merely that Jonah felt they were unreachable, because of their behaviour and their belief in other gods, but he simply didn’t want to go there. He hated them, and was quite happy for the whole city and its inhabitants to be destroyed. Jonah was both upset and angry. He could not understand why God wanted him to go into the city to help save them.

So, although he leaped onto a ship that was heading in the completely opposite direction, God had other plans. There came a storm, he was thrown overboard into the raging seas, and was swallowed by a whale! For three days and nights, Jonah languished inside the whale until it spat Jonah out onto the beach, probably not far from where he had started out from and closer to the city that he didn’t want to visit than he was previously! At that moment, he gave up, gave in, and did what he had been asked to do by God. He visited the city, and to cut a long story short, the city was saved from destruction. The unreachable had been reached, and had been saved.

Jonah, could not understand. God wanted to save those who were so wicked that He had decided to destroy them all! They were unreachable. But God had a plan – He reached the unreachable, by sending a man who hated them, and saved them all. You see:

He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Who are the unreachable in our lives today? Where are the unreachable in our lives today? God wants to reach out to them today. Perhaps you don’t want to go. Perhaps you would, like Jonah, prefer to set sail in the opposite direction. But, like Jonah, when you rebel and go in the opposite direction to that which God has planned for you, be careful you don’t end up in the belly of a whale – a cavernous world, dark and dank and smelly and small – when you could be free and flourishing as you follow the will of God.

May we pray: Thank You, Lord, that you want to reach the unreachable. Help us follow Your will and reach out to the unreachable.  We ask this in the precious name of our Saviour, Christ Jesus; Amen.

If you feel that you are unreachable, or if you are struggling to know how to reach the unreachable, we would like to pray for you – please get in touch. We would love to hear from you. May God Bless You.

Have you had your copy of ‘DARE to Hope!’ yet? You can download it here.