How Should We View People as Jehovah’s Day Approaches?
“Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, . . . but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 PETER 3:9.
1, 2. (a) How does Jehovah view people today? (b) What questions can we ask ourselves?
JEHOVAH’S servants have a commission to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) As we fulfill this assignment and await “the great day of Jehovah,” we need to view people as he does. (Zephaniah 1:14) And how is that? The apostle Peter says: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God views humans as individuals with the potential of attaining to repentance. His “will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) Why, Jehovah is delighted when “someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living”!—Ezekiel 33:11.
2 Do we personally share Jehovah’s view of people? Like him, do we consider individuals of every race and nation to be potential “sheep of his pasturage”? (Psalm 100:3; Acts 10:34, 35) Let us consider two examples that show the importance of having God’s viewpoint. In both cases, destruction was imminent, and Jehovah’s servants were given advance knowledge of this fact. These examples are especially significant as we await Jehovah’s great day.
Abraham Had Jehovah’s View
3. What was Jehovah’s view of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?
3 The first example involves the faithful patriarch Abraham and the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When Jehovah heard “the cry of complaint about Sodom and Gomorrah,” he did not immediately destroy those cities and all their inhabitants. He first made an investigation. (Genesis 18:20, 21) Two angels were sent to Sodom, where they took up dwelling in the house of the righteous man Lot. On the night of the angels’ arrival, “the men of the city . . . surrounded the house, from boy to old man, all the people in one mob,” desiring to have homosexual intercourse with the angels. Clearly, the debased condition of the city’s inhabitants proved that it deserved to be destroyed. Yet, the angels told Lot: “Do you have anyone else here? Son-in-law and your sons and your daughters and all who are yours in the city, bring out of the place!” Jehovah opened the way to save some residents of that city, but in the end, only Lot and his two daughters escaped destruction.—Genesis 19:4, 5, 12, 16, 23-26.
4, 5. Why did Abraham plead for the inhabitants of Sodom, and was his view of people in harmony with that of Jehovah?
4 Now, let us go back to the time when Jehovah revealed his intention to inspect the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was then that Abraham pleaded: “Suppose there are fifty righteous men in the midst of the city. Will you, then, sweep them away and not pardon the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are inside it? It is unthinkable of you that you are acting in this manner to put to death the righteous man with the wicked one so that it has to occur with the righteous man as it does with the wicked! It is unthinkable of you. Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?” Abraham used the expression “it is unthinkable of you” twice. From his experience, Abraham knew that Jehovah would not destroy the righteous together with the wicked. When Jehovah said that he would not destroy Sodom if there were “fifty righteous men in the midst of the city,” Abraham progressively reduced the number until it reached only ten.—Genesis 18:22-33.
5 Would Jehovah have listened to Abraham’s pleas if they were out of harmony with his own view? Obviously not. As “Jehovah’s friend,” Abraham apparently knew and shared His viewpoint. (James 2:23) When Jehovah turned his attention to Sodom and Gomorrah, he was willing to consider Abraham’s petitions. Why? Because our heavenly Father “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”
Jonah’s View of People—A Stark Contrast
6. How did the Ninevites react to Jonah’s proclamation?
6 Now consider the second example—that of Jonah. This time the city appointed for destruction was Nineveh. The prophet Jonah was told to proclaim that the badness of that city had ‘come up before Jehovah.’ (Jonah 1:2) Including its suburbs, Nineveh was a large city, “with a walking distance of three days.” When Jonah finally obeyed and entered Nineveh, he kept declaring: “Only forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown.” At that, “the men of Nineveh began to put faith in God, and they proceeded to proclaim a fast and to put on sackcloth.” Even the king of Nineveh repented.—Jonah 3:1-6.
7. How did Jehovah view the repentant attitude of the Ninevites?
7 That was quite a contrast to the response in Sodom! How did Jehovah view the repentant Ninevites? Jonah 3:10 says: “The true God felt regret over the calamity that he had spoken of causing to them; and he did not cause it.” Jehovah “felt regret” in the sense that he altered his dealings with the Ninevites because they changed their ways. The divine standards did not change, but Jehovah changed his decision upon seeing that the Ninevites were repentant.—Malachi 3:6.
8. Why did Jonah become sullen?
8 When Jonah realized that Nineveh would not be destroyed, did he see things from Jehovah’s viewpoint? No, for we are told: “To Jonah, though, it was highly displeasing, and he got to be hot with anger.” What else did Jonah do? The account says: “He prayed to Jehovah and said: ‘Ah, now, O Jehovah, was not this an affair of mine, while I happened to be on my own ground? That is why I went ahead and ran away to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and feeling regret over the calamity.’” (Jonah 4:1, 2) Jonah knew about Jehovah’s qualities. At that point, however, the prophet became sullen and did not share God’s view of the repentant inhabitants of Nineveh.
9, 10. (a) What lesson did Jehovah provide for Jonah? (b) Why can we assume that Jonah eventually adopted Jehovah’s view of the Ninevites?
9 Jonah went out of Nineveh, built a booth, and sat in its shade “until he would see what would become of the city.” Jehovah let a bottle-gourd plant grow so that it would provide shade for Jonah. The next day, however, the plant withered. When Jonah became angry about that, Jehovah said: “You, for your part, felt sorry for the bottle-gourd plant . . . And, for my part, ought I not to feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men who do not at all know the difference between their right hand and their left, besides many domestic animals?” (Jonah 4:5-11) What a lesson for Jonah regarding Jehovah’s view of people!
10 Jonah’s response to God’s statement about feeling sorry for the people of Nineveh is not recorded. Yet, it is evident that the prophet adjusted his view of the repentant Ninevites. We draw that conclusion from the fact that Jehovah used him to record this inspired account.
Which Attitude Do You Have?
11. How would Abraham likely view people living today?
11 Today, we are facing another destruction—that of the present wicked system of things during the great day of Jehovah. (Luke 17:26-30; Galatians 1:4; 2 Peter 3:10) How would Abraham view the people living in this world that is soon to be destroyed? He most likely would be concerned about those who have not yet heard the “good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) Abraham repeatedly pleaded with God regarding possible righteous ones in Sodom. Are we personally concerned about people who would reject the ways of this world under Satan’s control if given the opportunity to repent and serve God?—1 John 5:19; Revelation 18:2-4.
12. Why is it easy to develop a Jonahlike attitude toward people we meet in our ministry, and what can we do about this?
12 It is proper to yearn for the end of wickedness. (Habakkuk 1:2, 3) Yet, it is so easy to develop a Jonahlike attitude, being unconcerned about the welfare of people who might repent. This is especially true if we keep meeting individuals who are apathetic, antagonistic, or even belligerent when we call at their homes with the Kingdom message. We may lose sight of those Jehovah will yet gather out of this wicked system of things. (Romans 2:4) If serious self-scrutiny reveals that we have even a little of Jonah’s original attitude toward the Ninevites, we can pray for help to conform our view to that of Jehovah.
13. Why can we say that Jehovah is concerned about people today?
13 Jehovah is concerned about those not yet serving him, and he listens to the petitions of his dedicated people. (Matthew 10:11) For instance, “he will cause justice to be done” in response to their prayers. (Luke 18:7, 8) Moreover, Jehovah will fulfill all his promises and purposes in his own time. (Habakkuk 2:3) This will include ridding the earth of all evil, even as he destroyed Nineveh after her inhabitants relapsed into wickedness.—Nahum 3:5-7.
14. What should we be doing while awaiting Jehovah’s great day?
14 Until this wicked system of things is removed during the great day of Jehovah, will we be patiently waiting, busily involved in doing his will? We do not know the details about the extent of the preaching work yet to be accomplished before the arrival of Jehovah’s day, but we do know that the good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth to God’s satisfaction before the end comes. And surely we should be concerned about the “desirable things” yet to be brought in as Jehovah continues to fill his house with glory.—Haggai 2:7.
Our View Made Evident by Our Actions
15. What can heighten our appreciation for the preaching work?
15 Perhaps we live in a community where the preaching work is not well received and we are not in a position to move to where there is a greater need for Kingdom proclaimers. Suppose ten can be found in our territory before the end comes. Do we feel that those ten are worth searching for? Jesus “felt pity” for the crowds “because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) By studying the Bible and carefully reading articles in The Watchtower and Awake!, we can gain greater insight into this world’s plight. In turn, this can heighten our appreciation for the need to preach the good news. Moreover, appreciative use of the Bible-based material provided through “the faithful and discreet slave” can add to our persuasiveness in frequently worked territory.—Matthew 24:45-47; 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
16. How might we increase the effectiveness of our ministry?
16 Our concern for those who may yet respond to the life-giving Bible message moves us to consider various times and ways to approach householders in our ministry. Do we find that many are not at home when we call? If so, we may be able to increase the effectiveness of our ministry by varying the times and places of our witnessing activity. Fishermen go fishing when they can catch fish. Can we do something similar in our spiritual fishing work? (Mark 1:16-18) Why not try evening witnessing and telephone witnessing, where that is legal? Some have found that parking lots, truck stops, gas stations, and stores are productive ‘fishing grounds.’ Our having an Abrahamlike attitude toward people also becomes evident when we seize opportunities to witness informally.
17. In what ways can we encourage missionaries and others serving in foreign lands?
17 Millions have not yet heard the Kingdom message. In addition to our preaching, can we show concern for such people even without leaving home? Well, do we know missionaries or full-time ministers who are serving abroad? If so, we might well write them letters that show our appreciation for their work. How could that show concern for people in general? Our letters of encouragement and commendation could strengthen the missionaries to stay in their assignment, thus helping many more people to come to a knowledge of the truth. (Judges 11:40) We can also pray for missionaries and for those who are hungering for truth in other lands. (Ephesians 6:18-20) Another way to show concern is by making monetary donations to the worldwide work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—2 Corinthians 8:13, 14; 9:6, 7.
Would You Be Able to Move?
18. What have some Christians done to promote Kingdom interests in the country where they reside?
18 Those who have moved to places where the need for Kingdom proclaimers is greater have been blessed for their self-sacrificing efforts. While remaining in their own homeland, however, other Witnesses of Jehovah have learned another language so as to be of spiritual help to immigrants. Such efforts have been rewarding indeed. For example, seven Witnesses helping Chinese people in a city in Texas, U.S.A., welcomed 114 individuals to the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal in 2001. Those helping such groups have found their fields ready for harvesting.—Matthew 9:37, 38.
19. What is it advisable to do if you are contemplating a move to a foreign country to further the Kingdom-preaching work there?
19 Perhaps you and your family feel that you are in a position to move to a place where the need for Kingdom preachers is greater. First, of course, it is wise to “sit down and calculate the expense.” (Luke 14:28) Especially is this true when a person is contemplating a move to a foreign country. Anyone considering such a possibility might well ask himself such questions as these: ‘Would I be able to support my family? Can I get an appropriate visa? Do I already speak the language of the country, or am I willing to learn it? Have I thought about the climate and the culture? Could I really be “a strengthening aid” and not a burden to fellow believers in that land?’ (Colossians 4:10, 11) To find out how much need there is in the country to which you are thinking of moving, it is always appropriate to write to the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses supervising the preaching work in that area.a
20. How has one young Christian expended himself for the benefit of fellow believers and others in a foreign land?
20 One Christian who has been involved in the construction of Kingdom Halls in Japan learned that there was a need for skilled workers to build a place of worship in Paraguay. Being single and having youthful vigor, he moved to that country and worked for eight months as the sole full-time worker on the project. During his stay, he learned Spanish and conducted home Bible studies. He could see the need for Kingdom proclaimers in the country. Although he returned to Japan, he soon went back to Paraguay and helped to gather people into that very Kingdom Hall.
21. What should be our principal concern and viewpoint as we await Jehovah’s great day?
21 God will see to it that the preaching work is carried out fully, in harmony with his will. Today, he is speeding up the final spiritual harvest. (Isaiah 60:22) As we await Jehovah’s day, then, let us zealously share in the harvest work and view people as our loving God views them.
a It is not always helpful for you to move to a country where the preaching work is banned or restricted. Doing so might even harm the Kingdom publishers working discreetly under such circumstances.
Do You Recall?
• As we await Jehovah’s day, how should we view people?
• What was Abraham’s view of righteous ones who might have been living in Sodom?
• How did Jonah view the repentant people of Nineveh?
• How can we show that we share Jehovah’s view of people who have not yet heard the good news?
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Abraham viewed people as Jehovah does
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Jonah came to have Jehovah’s view of the repentant Ninevites
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Concern for people moves us to consider various times and ways to preach the good news