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Jonah Gets a Bum Rap

I was drawn off sequence in my reading yesterday by a young pastor who spoke from the book of Jonah. His take was to challenge the church to be more inclusive, Jonah’s hesitancy. He did this in a way so as not to throw Jonah under the bus, for it was Jonah who well knew of God’s love. That very understanding was behind his hesitancy to go to the wicked city of Nineveh. He was culturally addicted by the thought that Hebrews alone deserved God’s love.

However, he was spiritually mature enough to hear the call from a God that loved all people, not just his small network. You would think that 2000 years after Jesus, the Church would get this. It seems we are suffering from the same challenge as the Hebrews.

Jonah then makes a random selection of a vessel bound for Tarshish out of Joppa. He would find safe harbor from God with these folk, whom he believes have forsaken their pursuit of God. Unfortunately he finds himself in a fierce storm.

Ironically it was these people, hardened sailors, who recognized their problem as spiritual and not just your ordinary storm. They discerned this while Jonah was asleep in the hull! Hello Church!

“So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” (Jonah 1:8, NIV).

My struggle this a.m. is with logic. If we serve the same God, One equally as powerful today as then, and in fact by way of the Spirit, now lives within us, why does our presence not create the same response, when our world is in a life crisis?

I find it ironic that in a time when the Church is crying out, swirling in its own seaweed like predicament, Nineveh is back in the news. Double that irony, in that it is due to a radical sect from the world’s third Abrahamic religion, Islam.

CNN(1) on Fri July 25, 2014 reported that ISIS, the Islamist group that has established a “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq, had destroyed the centuries-old Tomb of Jonah in Mosul, Iraq. Present-day Mosul encompasses the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where, the Bible teaches, the Prophet Jonah preached. Although this is disputed, a tradition holds that Jonah was buried within the city, on Tell Nebi Yunus, or Hill of the Prophet Jonah. An Assyrian church stood over the tomb for centuries. After the Muslim conquest, the church became a mosque; the structure that ISIS destroyed last week dated to the 14th century.”2

Perhaps the Church is running from the same God, thus the condition of our world! Maybe all three religions are being confronted in that they all profess to be of the seed of Abraham but all suffering from the same bias. Rather than surrender that cultural bias, which blinds us to the Truth of Love, we have attempted to escape the Call and jumped on board the ship of religion. Now overboard, perhaps if we cry out, Nineveh might have a chance?

The answer is not a wake up call for the world but rather the Church. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14

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