Jonah, Ruth and My Personal Journey
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
It has been a while since I have felt compelled to write in length beyond my brief morning Facebook posts. Frankly, I have been too preoccupied with my memoirs, “A Catalyst for Change”, soon to be published.
This a.m. as I read through the book of Jonah, quarantined like so many and of late bombarded by online sermons and political rhetoric, I seemed to have no choice.
Having been raised Pentecostal, my spiritual life has been bounded by three powerful pillars of influence: a relatively literal understanding of scripture, a powerful expectation of God in this present world and a personal witness of that power. As I age, the three seem to be pushing against each other. Hopefully the outcome of these forces (hear my physics background) create an “upward” resultant force!
I have truly seen the miraculous demonstration of God intervening in supernatural ways, both as a child and as an adult. I have also studied scripture and the writings of both conservative and liberal theologians. Frankly I have assessed (hear my judgmental side) their relationship with God on my impression of their impact on the Body of Christ within their particular community or the nation at large. Save Billy Graham, televangelist I have avoided.
America is an amazing land, with a history of Christian influence from multiple denominational persuasions and a full spectrum of academic spiritual analysis (paralysis from some). This has spawned churches on almost ever corner in most of our cities. You would think America had a handle on God!
That no longer seems the case given the political bickering within the Body of Christ.
Back to Jonah, Nineveh and the crew on his Ocean Cruise!
Jonah apparently had a call on his life and like myself at times, had decided that the people of Nineveh whom God apparently loved more so than Jonah (ya think!) were unworthy of his time and talents!
Ironically, just before my morning dive into this book, I was reflecting on a sermon heard just yesterday from the Book of Ruth. It seems that Ruth was a Moabite woman who had fallen in love with the son of a couple from Bethlehem (yes, that Bethlehem). While Googling, I stumbled upon a book entitled “Bethlehem’s Closet—A Reunion of Grace” by Donald H. Neidigk. His prose, address the myriad of characters in Jesus’ life, which include prostitutes, adulterers and incestuous characters. You know, folk like us but by His grace!
Maybe this is me coming out of “the closet”?
The thing that got me to thinking was a phrase from this writer, that described the religion of the Moabites. They believed in a very wrathful God named Chemosh that required the sacrifice of their son’s to appease his wrath. Who could ever fall for such a religion. Hello my far right evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son….”
Don’t miss my point, though I have not yet made it!
Just as Jonah could not comprehend that God could love these wicked, heathen people of Nineveh, we have our own bias and prejudices…rampant in today’s political divide!
Okay, my point is three fold:
1) as I have matured, I can no longer accept the scriptures as literal, read now annually for fifty years, during a life experience quite blessed.
2) I have not been able to outlive the reality that God is powerful in intervention when the people of God both repent and pray! I don’t see that happening in the middle of this pandemic!
3) had we been living that way, I cannot imagine a God who cares for folk who don’t know their right hand from their left, not intervening in America right now! If you recall, those were the words in the last chapter of Jonah, written as justification for God’s intervention, and they are wealthy (“have many cattle”).
Can you not hear the bias of this broken man, being transferred to God?
My perspective has changed tremendously, in that I now believe:
1) the Scriptures are God breathed but lovingly into folk who are desperately broken.
2) that brokenness unknowingly to the writers has been captured strategically for our awareness. Over millennia, God has patiently allowed men to transfer their brokenness to God in this Holy Writ. Yes, shaping what we know as “religion”…man’s broken attempts to define God.
3) God then lives into that brokenness by becoming flesh in order to satisfy the harshest demand of man’s religion… the sacrifice of His only son!
Don’t appreciate this post? Now you know how Jonah must have felt, even myself now for years, when this God whom both Jonah and I have followed, now asked to do something completely outside his belief structure!
But God provided a whale and He will get me through this.