Sometimes those who do not know and worship God still do noble things. Just one verse in today’s reading prompted my thinking on this. The sailors on Jonah’s ship to Tarshish were religiously syncretistic as a whole, with a sort of a “Heinz 57” amalgamation of different gods that were worshipped (1:5). Obviously, none of them was a believer in the One True God, Jonah’s God. But notice what they did when Jonah told them the answer to their fear of the storm was to throw him overboard. “Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.” (1:13) These pagan sailors were unwilling, at first, to kill Jonah to save their own lives.
We see this many times in our lives today: unbelieving doctors and medical researchers who tirelessly give themselves to saving lives, lost military personnel who are willing to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of others, public safety workers who put themselves in harm’s on our behalf, teachers who dedicate themselves to the good of their students in selfless fashion, and many, many others of similar quality. There is even an illustration of this in one of the parables Jesus’ told. The Samaritan was certainly not thought of nor depicted even as a follower of God, but he acted in a manner that was “good.”
What’s my point? Simply, gratitude. You and I can still be thankful for the contributions to the good of society and the world from those who do not share our knowledge of God. They may not worship as we do, but they can still do good things. And we should thank them and honor them for this. But we should also remember that those things are temporal. We are an eternal people who have the message of eternal life. So, along with our gratitude we should also seek to love them into the kingdom of God. Their “good works” will not save them.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the better aspects of those who are still lost apart from you. Thank you for their contributions to the world in general and to our lives specifically. God, please use us to show them your love and the glory of the gospel.