Date Posted: May 14th, 2012
Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left… Should I not be concerned about that great city? Jonah 4:11
It could be that the 120,000 people who “cannot tell their right hand from their left” is a reference to young children, but it’s more likely a description of people who’ve lost their moral compass. They’re no longer able to discern between right and wrong.
We use “right” and “left” to give directions: “Go down this street and when you get to the end turn left, and the house is half way down on the right hand side.” A person who cannot tell their right hand from their left cannot follow directions, and a person who does not know which way to turn in life will quickly become lost.
God says “I have compassion for Nineveh because they don’t know how to follow directions. They’re completely lost, so I have compassion on them.” Reflecting on the human condition will increase your compassion and enlarge your heart so that it reflects the heart of God.
Blindness, slavery and death
What is the human condition? The Bible describes it in many ways, but here are three…
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4
The blindness is real. It is not just that the unbeliever doesn’t want to see. It is not that he is being obtuse. He cannot see! You talk to him about Christ and what He means to you and he cannot connect with what you are saying. It is a genuine blindness. He doesn’t get it.
“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34
The slavery is real. To be a “slave to sin” means that the sinner can’t stop sinning. He does not have the power. He may be able to change the particular form of his sins, but he can’t stop being a sinner. That’s what slavery means—you’re a slave and you can’t get free.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. Ephesians 2:1
This death is real. By nature we’re unresponsive to God. We don’t have the power within us to change. That’s why we can’t save ourselves. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
When you get the Bible’s picture of the human condition into your mind, it will help you with people who, like Jonah, you would otherwise be angry or judgmental with. Now imagine that you are responsible for parking at the Super Bowl…
The cars are jammed in, bumper-to-bumper. Your job, when the game is over, is to clear the parking lot as quickly and as safely as possible. Your strategy is simple—as soon as all the drivers in the first row of a section return to their cars, you’ll begin moving them into the exit lane, so the others parked behind them can follow.
The game lets out and a flood of people head for their cars. You notice, in the front row of one section, all three drivers are seated in their cars, so you raise your flag and motion them forward—nothing happens. You blow your whistle—nothing. Then you notice something strange: these guys are in their cars, but they haven’t even started their engines. What in the world are they doing?
The cars behind you are wondering the same thing. Some of them are angry, “Why aren’t we moving?” You start getting angry yourself, and you hustle over to the first car: “Get moving!” The driver says, “I don’t know what happened, but I can’t see. I got in the car and everything went dark. I can’t drive. I’m blind!”
You run to the next: “You need to get moving.” As the driver struggles to roll down his window, you notice that he’s in handcuffs. “I don’t know how this happened,” he says, “but I got in the car and some guy was hiding in the back seat. He slapped these cuffs on me and took off. I can’t drive. I’m bound!”
By now, the folks in the cars behind you are ready to riot. They’re standing on pick-up trucks, waving their fists and shouting abuse. So you move to the third car and bang on the window, “Sir, these guys have a problem. They can’t move their vehicles. I need you to move your car now!” There’s no response. You do a double-take. The driver is slumped over the steering wheel. He’s dead.
Crowds of people are shouting abuse, blaring their horns, and saying what they’ll do to the drivers in the front if they don’t get moving, but you have compassion. Why? Because you understand the problem—one guy is blind, one guy is bound, and the other guy is dead. All the shouting in the world isn’t going to change that.
There’s a kind of Christianity that is angry with the sinful world. It’s angry because it hasn’t adequately reflected on the human condition. Every human being that is born into this world is blind to the glory of Christ, bound and unable to get free from sin, and completely unresponsive or dead to God. No amount of horn blowing is going to change any of that.
Instead of blowing your horn
Reflecting on the human condition will help you understand salvation. Salvation has to come through the light of the gospel, giving sight by the power of the Holy Spirit. It has to involve the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, not just His forgiving work, but His freeing work. And it has to involve the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, actually giving us new life and new birth. The Bible tells us that all of these things are found only in Christ.
Think about someone who really annoys you. You get upset with them; you feel impatient with them, and you know you need to grow in compassion for them. Reflect on our human condition as it relates to them and you will grow in compassion.
Maybe you are thinking “That’s all very well, but what if the person who angers me most is a Christian?” Though God has given us sight, we only see in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). Though we have the Spirit, we still battle with the flesh. Though we are new creations, we are not yet what we will one day be. So, let us be patient with one another in Christ as well.
This LifeKey is based on the message “Receive God’s Mercy and Withhold It From Others,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, from the series, “How to Avoid a God-Centered Life” preached on February 15, 2009.