In religious jargon, there is a thing known as “common grace.” It is the idea that God gives good things to everyone, not just to those who know and worship Him. He causes the rain and the sunshine to fall on all of His creation. Beautiful music and art, acts of kindness, innovation, recreation, professional skill and every other good thing, common to man are all manifestations of God’s common grace. He gives them to people without regard to their race or religion.
When Jonah was on the boat, the Gentile sailors exhibited a much better spirit than Jonah. They all worked for the good of everyone. They called on their gods. They treated Jonah with respect. Jonah did none of this. He kept silent for as long he could. When asked to pray, he refused. How is it that the people who do not know God, sometimes behave in ways that are superior to the actions of those who do? They have understood some very important things by and through common grace.
If we are not careful, Christians can develop the view that since we know God, non-Christians have nothing to teach us. If we will open our eyes, we might see that others know more about what it means to “love thy neighbor” than we do. At least they sometimes do it better. God’s common grace, growing in non-believers can teach us about courage, diligence, respect for others, discipline and even moral purity. I am reminded of the Good Samaritan. In this story, someone with no religious pedigree demonstrates for the whole world what it means to “love thy neighbor.” Where did he learn this?
As believers in our Lord, Jesus Christ, we must pay careful attention to how we view and treat people who do not share our faith. We must respect and love them. We must never look down on them and we must never assume they have nothing to teach us. God has given us a special grace but the common grace that He gives to all is still there and everyone you meet will have it to some degree. They have much to teach us.
Grace and peace,