A tribal community exists solely for itself, and those within it keep asking, “How can we protect ourselves from those who are different from us?” A tribal mindset is marked by an unbalanced patriotism. It typically elevates personal and cultural preferences to absolute principles: If everybody were more like us, this world would be a better place.
But in a missional-minded community, the highest value isn’t self-preservation but self-sacrifice. A missional community exists not primarily for itself but for others. It’s a community willing to be inconvenienced and discomforted, willing to expend itself for others on God’s behalf.
A tribal mindset is antithetical to the gospel. The gospel demands that we be missional, because the gospel is the story of God sacrificing himself for his enemies. Both these approaches are robustly present in Jonah’s story. Jonah represents the best of a tribal mindset, the absolute best. He’s like the trophy-boy for tribalism. And God–ever gracious, ever-pursuing, ever-compassionate–carries the trophy for mission-mindedness.
Here’s the real tragedy: by nature, we’re all tribal, in the root sense of being fundamentally self-centered. We’re all convinced that if only everyone else was more like us, this world would enjoy smooth sailing. And because of that self-centeredness, our heart’s default mod is self-preservation, not self-sacrifice. Our hearts naturally drift toward self-righteousness.