Now the word of LORD came to Jonah, the son of Amittai saying “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me”.
But Jonah rose to flee….from the presence of the LORD
And Jesus said to them, his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
American Christianity is Jonah.
It is easy to look at the events that happen in American inner cities where black teenagers are shot and killed by law enforcement and and pick sides. Regardless of what side we stand on, there are not 2 sides of this issue. There are 3.
1) the side that says law enforcement did the right thing
2) the side that says law enforcement did the wrong thing
3) God’s side
Anyone that has been a Christian for any length of time, knows the story of Jonah. The cute version is taught in Sunday school classes across the country, keeping the focus on the big whale and Jonah in the whale’s belly. Then after 3 days, the whale spits him up onto the beach and off Jonah goes…to Ninevah, to tell a wicked and evil group of people that God wants them to repent.
The first time I studied Jonah as an adult, I was surprised to discover that Jonah, though a prophet of God, turned out to be pretty rebellious, not because of what He did, but mostly due to what he did not do. He refused to do what God asked him to do and ran away from God, or attempted to, as if that were possible.
A little background information on Jonah is that he prophesied to the northern Kingdom when Israel was divided.
Jonah was a well respected prophet. According to Nancy Guthrie’s The Word of the Lord- Seeing Jesus in the Prophets, she writes
“Jonah was popular in a way that most prophets were not, a popularity he probably enjoyed”.
Meaning, the people of Israel, God’s people, esteemed Jonah in such a way that if he were living today, he might have had the title of celebrity pastor, Christian leader, famous Christian blogger, or mega church pastor.
Jonah liked the recognition he got as a leader, God’s go-to guy. He liked the accolades, the respect, the following. He gave people a word from the LORD and enjoyed being used by God in mighty ways.
Then God told him to do something that Jonah was not ready for. It was not on Jonahs’ radar and definitely was not on Jonah’s heart.
God asked Jonah to go into a city and tell them to repent.
“Wait a minute God. You want me to go into THAT city and tell them to repent. They are not worth the time and effort to go. They are a people different from us. They are evil, wicked, full of sin and brutality. Let them devour each other because we got better things to do, like go overseas.”
In essence, Jonah said these words with his actions, even though he never uttered them with words.
When Jonah finally came to his senses, he did go into the city. He told them God wanted them to repent. Instead of blowing Jonah off, surprisingly, they repented. The people in that great city who, according to God, were so lost and so broken they did not know their right hand from their left, repented and turned to Jonah’s God.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
His heart broke for the lost.
God knew the only way they were going to come to Him was through repentance.
We can see that these places….just need God, because we realize and trust that only God changes people hearts, thus changing people’s lives and behavior.
When was the last time a celebrity pastor or Christian leader organized or was a part of a major Christian conference that was accessible to those living in impoverished neighborhoods? I know of only one.
Can we look at brokenness and see what God sees?
To quote a great contemporary theologian, the words
“If ain’t nobody in the hood preaching how will they know?”
could not be more applicable.
God help us to repent of our American Christianity.