Of all the revivals recorded for us in the Bible then one of my favourites, if I'm allowed to have such a thing, is the revival in the city of Nineveh as told us in Jonah 3. It's a short chapter so I'll quote it all:
"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened."
Interestingly, the answer to this question is often presented as an absolute yes or an absolute no. If you answered with an absolute no then congratulations for being an antinomian (google it, somewhat to my own surprise I spelt this right first attempt), you're also wrong. And if you answered with an absolute yes then you're probably a Catholic or legalist and likewise wrong. The answer to the question is probably best summed up as a qualified yes (or even a qualified no but I think I prefer the emphasis on the doing of good). It requires a nuanced understanding of salvation and if you're wondering what on earth I'm going on about, please stay with me, at least until I've gone through the arguments.
Of course, one of the cornerstone principles of the Christian faith is salvation through faith alone. Happily, I'm not denying this. But salvation is much broader than we often conceive it to be. Let's spilt salvation into its parts then, sorry if you are put off with the '-ations' but it's good to learn the theological terms involved.
One of the catchphrases of modern Christianity is: “God hates sin but loves the sinner,” and at first glance it might seem that there is nothing wrong with this statement but as with a lot of modern Christianity it doesn’t tell the full story. Again, like a lot of ‘modern’ Christianity, by which I mean the Christianity so often taught in churches today, it takes a truth and distorts it through mis-emphases.
The problem with the catchphrase is that it ignores the verses in the Bible which say things like:
“The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
Proverbs 6 v 16 – 19
The Arab Spring, the Euro-crisis, the US debt problem, the European debt problem, the terrorist attack in Norway, the riots in England, the world seems increasingly instable of late. All that was thought certain and secure is being rendered worthless. We built our lives on the ‘certainty’ of economic growth, on the ‘security’ of our house prices but the god of money now lies in ruin. Who would have expected a year ago that Norway would have been the victim of terror? But one of the countries with the highest Human Development Index rating is now no stranger to the evil of terrorism. Riots happen in Greece, Spain or France, in foreign places, not London, not in our own backyard, so we thought. The US was unassailable in its economic position; it would never lose its credit rating, this we knew for sure.
But no, in the last six months much or we thought or wanted to think is now revealed to be wrong. Greed, hatred, looting, corruption, lying, violence and sexual immorality have come to light in every circle of society. Those in power, those not in power, we see that all are guilty of evil. This should be a profoundly humbling experience for us as we watch the world around us. It has not been.