Commentary: What does summer heat teach us about the gospel?


Life in West Tennessee has been unusually hot recently, with temperatures hovering in the mid-90s for prolonged periods. But it isn’t just here. Brownsville, Texas, peaked at 100 degrees as early as May 24. Las Vegas hit 111 degrees the first week of June, while Death Valley endured heat of 122 degrees on the same day. Even naturally cooler places like Chicago boasted a new daily record high of 98 degrees before summer officially began. The same can be said of Boston, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

From Birmingham up to Manhattan, across to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, the summer of 2024 is shaping up to be history’s hottest season to date. Just two weeks in and the subject is just as frequent as the bitter election cycle that is before us. Families are roasting on ballfields. Attending an outdoor wedding feels like falling into a burning ring fire. Health enthusiasts cannot rise early enough to outrun the heat. Conversations between strangers turn to the weather faster than a Dairy Queen ice-cream can melt in your hand. 

I’m not suggesting it is wrong to commiserate in our sweaty misery, but my mind cannot help but recall another impassioned dialogue about the summer heat that occurred long ago. After preaching in the city of Nineveh, the reluctant prophet Jonah fled to the east and sat under a self-made shelter, lamenting the grace of God toward others (Jonah 4:1-5). In what can only be described as an object lesson of priority, the Lord caused a large plant to grow in order to comfort Jonah with shade from the sun’s scolding rays (Jonah 4:6).

The prophet’s enthusiasm for the plant far exceeded his joy over the salvation of sinners in the city. Likewise, when God appointed a worm to attack the plant so that it died, Jonah was far more distressed by his discomfort than the lostness of the people around him (Jonah 4:7). He even lamented his own life, blindly speculating that death would be better than the distress of the sun’s heat (Jonah 4:8).

In a moment of vulnerable exposure, God challenged Jonah’s hypocritical priorities by comparing his great compassion for a plant to his lack of compassion for the souls of people (Jonah 4:10-11). We don’t know how the prophet responded, perhaps intentionally, because the book’s open-ended conclusion invites us into the story. How would we have answered the Lord? Do we show more concern for the temporal or the eternal?

God calls every Christian to give witness on the earth to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:8). He charges us to make disciples of all nations by going, baptizing, and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20). As salt and light, we are to let our light shine before others so that they will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:13-16). Because Jesus Christ is not a good way to heaven, or even the best way to heaven, but the ONLY WAY to heaven, our hearts should break for the lost more than any trivial pursuit or possession.

Outside of knowing Jesus personally there is no greater privilege than introducing another person to our Savior. Yet, sadly, you might hear believers talk more about the weather this summer than the unbelieving friend or neighbor they’re praying for and sharing with. News of an untimely heatwave might concern us more than the eternal lake of fire and brimstone that will serve as the final resting place for those outside of Christ (Rev. 20:11-15).

Only Christ can save sinners; therefore believers should feel no pressure to guarantee outcomes when sharing the gospel (1 Cor. 3:7). Yet, we can share with the confidence that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:13). Because Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4), we should, without apology or favor, present repentance of sins (Luke 13:3) and faith in Jesus (Rom. 10:9-10) as the doorway into kingdom of God.

Every day, where we live, work and play, we meet people at school, work, parks, hospitals, restaurants who need Jesus. Do we care? Or does the eternal lostness of our neighbors evoke little more than an apathetic yawn with us? Do we find future weather patterns more interesting and the summer heat more concerning? Or does God’s priority to seek and to save the lost shape the priorities of our lives?  

Jonah became insensitive to God’s plan for the world, but we don’t have to. When is the last time you shared your faith? How long has it been since you prayed for a lost friend? Who will you bring to church on Sunday?


Dr. Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at