I am Jonah; I am Nineveh!

Thanksgiving Day turned out to be one of the most memorable in a very long time. The conversation was wonderful, the food unspeakably good and the fellowship with family was priceless.

One specific conversation involved our calling to La Mosquitia. My Mom, the brilliant woman she is, compared my initial statement of 'I'm not going to the Mosquito Coast' to Jonah's avoidance of God's call to Ninevah. I laughed such a statement off at first. My initial feeling was 'I'm not as stubborn as Jonah, as judgmental as Jonah, as disobedient as Jonah!' Ha!

This morning came early, early. My dreams flashed images of Miskito children... moving pictures of lives and imagined conversations. I woke to an urge to dig in to God's word. And, guess what, my study on 'God's Love for All Cultures' today focused on Jonah!

If the story of Jonah sits rusty in your mind... here is the Cliff Notes version. Nineveh was a city of great wickedness and cruelty. Jonah, a prophet whose name means 'dove', was told by God to "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." Jonah 1:2. Jonah, knowing of Nineveh said, "No way." I imagine his judgmental mind thinking that the people of Nineveh absolutely did not deserve a warning and were going to 'get what was coming to them.' Sadly, I've heard similar words echo in my own mind from time to time.

How often do we evaluate other cultures in this way? How often to we say, "well if they only did it this way, they wouldn't be so poor" or "if they would just work like an American, there wouldn't be the hunger"... or the like. Rarely do we take into account the cultural differences, the political web and other circumstantial factors. We would much rather justify our judgment against them as righteous, when in reality it is not.

You know the next part of the story... Jonah runs from God, takes a ship to Tarshish and is stuck in the center of a great storm. Jonah, knowing that the storm was caused by his disobedience, asks to be thrown overboard. The sea stopped raging and Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. Jonah saw the error of his ways while in the belly of the fish and prayed desperately to God from his distress. God, having compassion upon Jonah, commanded the fish to spit Jonah out on dry land.

The next time God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah went. Jonah preached to the people and, lo and behold, the "people of Nineveh believed in God." From the king to the lowest of rank, the people earnestly repented and called on God to save their city. And God was compassionate to do so.

Our friend, Jonah, was angered by the Lord's pardon of Nineveh. Still stewing in his judgment of these people, Jonah says, "I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity." Jonah 4:2. Jonah felt that dying was better than watching the people of Nineveh be forgiven.

Are we like Jonah? Do we believe that one life is more important than another simply because of where on the globe the life came forth? Do we rationalize our judgment by pointing to the immoral, depraved, ignorant people of XYZ? Do we believe that 'those people' are so far gone that they do not deserve God's forgiveness?

God created each life. One life is not more important than another. As the book of Jonah shows, our arrogance and judgment does not achieve God's ends. He created the distinctiveness of personality, the beauty of each culture. What started at the tower of Babel continues today... and we can choose to see people the way God sees them or we can be stiff-necked and miss what God is doing in the lives of people we view as inferior.

Are we like Nineveh? Are we willing to hear that our actions and thoughts are sinful? I hope so. Nineveh heard God's call to repentance and heeded it. And God had compassion on the people of Nineveh and He saved them! He saved and He still saves.

I am Jonah... I am Nineveh. Trust me, I am.



The funny (or not so funny) thing is this is how I usually feel about Americans. "Too far gone", "Get what they have coming", self-righteous attitude. Maybe that's why God hasn't called me to foreign missions. I refuse to admit and submit to the truth that I will not see Americans as just as needy of hearing the truth.
Though they have the opportunity and have turned their back on God, they are just as needy of salvation. Just as underserving of the beautiful gift none of us deserve: grace.
Holly (me.) said…
I have this very sort of attitude toward those most like me. The Suburbs make me crazy. That is likely a very large part of why I need to live in the Burbs and continue to learn how to lve my neighbor. Yes, Lord.

And may I suggest coffee again soon?

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