A Love for All Humankind

As a child I was the pastor’s kid, a regular Sunday School attendee, and there long after the janitor had locked the doors. I’ve always felt a little camaraderie with Jesus who called the temple His Father’s house…only Jesus meant to stay, and I was always begging to leave. God’s special relationship with Abraham was played out for me on flannel boards throughout my childhood, and I stood up and sang “Father Abraham” with all the motions. Despite all that, the mystery of how God had a heart for not only Israel but also the Gentiles has been a lingering question in my mind since childhood.

When I looked at the story of Adam and Eve, the flood, and the Tower of Babel as a child, the stories were full of judgement and turmoil. I sang “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of my lungs, but God’s heart for sinful man seemed obscure. Looking at the Bible as a whole, I now understand that our Creator-King had no choice but to judge sin, and that he, over time, revealed His costly plan to redeem not only Israel but all those who believe.

The Author of Creation is the immortal, all-powerful, righteous judge. He made angels as servants not slaves, among whose chief was Lucifer. Lucifer rebelled against God when he said, “I will raise my throne above the stars of God… I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14). At the height of pride, Lucifer took his eyes off his Creator, the I AM, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Ruler and Commander. Lucifer sought greatness for himself. God immediately threw him and the third of the angels who joined his rebellion out of His heavenly home. God’s perfect nature meant He could create the rules and had no moral obligation to give the angels a second chance. But here is what alarms me: When Eve was deceived and Adam also ate the forbidden fruit, God extended mercy along with His righteous judgement. He treats us more tenderly than the angels.

Why is humankind special to God? He made humans with special abilities and features that reflect His likeness that the rest of creation lacks. When Moses wrote the book of Genesis by God’s inspiration, he wrote it for the Israelites who spent their lives as slaves in Egypt. The Egyptians had been deceived by Satan and believed that the Sun and the Nile River were deities. They replaced the truth of God with a lie. Moses educated God’s people in the truth that God made us in His image by saying it four times in a matter of just two verses (Genesis 1:26-27) and reiterated it again when giving the written account of Adam’s family line (Genesis 5:1). We were given the ability to speak, read, create, and analyze. God gave us special authority over creation. This was not to dominate what God had created, but to use it to bless and help others. Our culture is inundated with the idea that we evolved from animals and that humans are no more important than the rest of creation. But we were created in a way unique from the animals and in God’s likeness. God wanted us to have a relationship with Him and one another. The Trinity shared perfect harmony. God’s purpose for us was to have perfect harmony with Him.

Satan continued to deceive people until the earth was so full of violence that God was grieved He created them. “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:7). In the midst of judgement, Noah found favor in the eyes of God. God knew that in the future Noah and his family would not be able to follow His perfect standard, but chose to save them anyway from the judgement He was pouring out on the rest of humankind.

Ten generations after Noah, people forgot all about the flood and disobeyed God’s command to scatter and spread throughout the earth. They took their eyes off Him and made their own plans to create fame for themselves. They banded together to create a tower that would reach the heavens. God kept His promise and did not destroy them. Rather, He intervened by creating many languages to throw them into utter confusion. This forced humankind to spread out and fill the earth like God had commanded. Many nations were born out of this one act. This dispersion feels so personal to me living in Papua New Guinea where there are 850 distinct languages, separated into people groups all over the remote jungles with their own special cultures.

God’s redemption plan continues when he blesses Abraham and promises him offspring. This seemed impossible to Abraham and he laughed, saying “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:17). But God promises Abraham his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. God made promises to Abraham that he would become great, and Abraham believed even though it was incomprehensible. These unconditional promises were made by God, who swore by His own name, the perfect guarantee. “Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:17,18).

God planned all along to justify not only Abraham, but the Gentiles as well. Israel was constantly confused about God’s plan. God’s purpose was to bless Abraham and his descendants so that the world would see His glory. God even promised to Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt. God would allow His people to experience slavery in Egypt, hardening Pharaoh’s heart against the Israelites and God himself. God’s purpose? “Though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgements I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it” (Exodus 7:3-5, emphasis added). God set Israel apart as His special people in order to show the nations that He is God. This teaches me that any blessing or privilege given to me by God isn’t meant to be hoarded, or for my own pride, but rather used for the building up of His glory to anyone He puts me in contact with.

Even though Jesus’ last words to the twelve commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations, the disciples were confused. Peter ate and drank with Jesus, watched him heal the foreign leper, and walked on the water with Jesus. Yet he still questioned how he could go into the home of a Gentile. Even after he was told three times in a vision, “Do not call anything impure that God had made clean,” Peter struggled. He entered the door of Cornelius, telling him bluntly: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” Talk about a reluctant house-guest! When the apostles heard that Peter had been in the house of a Gentile, they criticized him as well. Isn’t it shocking that they were confused after all that time with Jesus and the commission He gave them to make disciples of all nations?

Here’s the curious, upside-down, unsearchable ways of God: He makes His name great by placing the judgement we deserved on His only Son. He gives special grace to His chosen people, Israel, but extends that to all the nations. He invites the ones whose righteousness was filthy rags to come, now clothed in His righteousness. The great exchange was God’s Son wearing our filthy rags, choosing to be forsaken by the Father who He had never disappointed.

God’s promise is that one day He will come to judge those who have trampled the poor, turned away the afflicted, boasted in their possessions, and mocked those who believe in Him. It may seem as if the year 2019 has started and time just continues on as it always has. Second Peter warns us that there are many who will scoff and say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 2:4). He asks His servants to invite everyone to come: go quickly to the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes and tell them to come in so that my house will be full! (Luke 14:15-24). “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)

Will you be part of passing out the invitations? He says to invite those who will not be able to repay you in any way. That’s what He did when He invited me to His table. I was His enemy.

Be like Jesus and cross your enemy lines, comfort zones, social barriers, and racial prejudices. As redeemed people, humble yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus’ example. Share in His heart by seeing each person who is made in His image as unrepeatable and irreplaceable in His eyes, paid for by the blood of Jesus. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). Don’t worry about your own name. Give your life for the glory of His. Don’t waste a day! His return is soon!

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”  

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
- Revelation 7:9-12