Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quit Being a Jonah

A few months ago my small group went through Jonah. We were quite proud of ourselves because we made it through the whole book consisting of four small chapters in one night where we normally get through only a chapter or two of a book, but alas, I already digress.

Jonah is an interesting book because most people grow up or learn of the cutsie story where Jonah was commanded by God to preach to Ninevah and instead fled in the complete opposite direction so God had him sit in the belly of a giant fish until he agreed to preach. But there is so much more to this story and a lot of practical application for Christians and non-Christians. Really? Some of you are already prepping to argue if it was a whale, a fish, or how it is even possible Jonah survived that.

Let's first get past the part about the giant fish. It can be debated into the ground with no real resolutions. It is a very simplified story that does not even touch on the historical versus allegorical arguments that stem from this book. Second, this only takes the readers through the first two chapters of the story. There is a practical reason I wrote this so hang with me with a second so I can catch everyone up to speed. Then we will circle back around to what this means for you regardless of your faith.

Ninevah was a wicked city in God's eye. God sent to Jonah to warn Ninevah of their impending doom. Jonah however hated Ninevah because they were Assyrian invaders (enemies). He was okay with their destruction and did not see hope for them. After the whole surviving a fish's digestive tract thing, Jonah reluctantly agrees to warn Ninevah. What he does not expect to happen but actually did, is Ninevah fears the Lord and begins a period of repenting and fasting to avoid their own destruction.

Here is where Jonah should be celebrating God's mercy and grace for once lost people. But no, Jonah gets pissed. He wanted to see Ninevah get pounded to dust like Sodom and Gomorrah. So Jonah retreats to a hill over looking the city to sulk and express His displeasure with God. God rebukes him and says "Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" Basically God told Jonah to quit his belly aching and abide in His concern and mercy for a city that had not known or followed Him.

I get the impression far too many Christians cannot not wait for the end of the world. It comes out in our language. "Don't worry about your troubles, Jesus will be back soon." "Hurry up rapture (my friend James-Michael could have whole debate on what the rapture might actually mean for Christians)."
But like Jonah, how many of those calling yourselves Christians are so intent on Jesus' return and the new Earth, that you fail to take care of what is currently before you? How many of you fail to witness or tell of God's greatness and mercy because you think someone deserves God's wrath. I know in the past I was guilty of this and used my anger to project God. While God does have a plan for the wicked, He would much rather have them turn and follow Him and accept His gifts so He can shower them with His mercy and love.

If we call ourselves Christians, we should reflect this same attitude. Avoid grumbling when God does not administer swift justice to our enemies, instead be light and show God's love to them. You cannot predict who will turn away from their wrong doing to give their lives over to God. Jonah certainly could not predict Ninevah's reaction. Certainly do not rejoice in another persons downfall and quit waiting for the end. Live in today.

Oh yes, I promised application for those not who do not follow Christ. In the same way, point out to those who have wronged you, their follies and misdeeds. Some may apologize and seek to rectify the situation. Be happy about that and empty your heart of bitterness. As a counselor, I cannot tell you how many times a husband or wife has come to a session with pent up rage because their spouse wronged them. However, the spouse had no idea the extent to which they were being blamed. Upon confrontation, the spouse immediately apologized and sought to change their behavior. If someone is willing to change their heart or actions, should you not allow them the opportunity to do so instead of condemning them and maintaining your anger or resentment?