Monday, April 1, 2019

Being a Jonah

Most of us dream of being a hero. If calamity was imminent and we had the means to stop it, we hope we would be the one to step forward, shake the mothballs off our cape and save the world. Or perhaps on a more believable scale, stand in the gap when needed and do the small but heroic deed.

We want to be the King David of the faith (of course before the incident with Bathsheba), or the Paul or Peter of the New Testament (again, during their good times).

But what if we are actually more like Jonah?

Who was Jonah? He was the guy in the belly of the whale. The one God chose to reach out to an enemy nation to offer them God’s love and restoration, but instead said, “No way, José” and ran in the opposite direction, got swallowed by a whale, reconsidered God’s offer, agreed to be obedient, talked to the bad guys and brought them to repentance, became mad when God forgave them, and then sat under a tree, grumbling (sorry to all my Bible-scholar friends for this Sara-notes version).

What if you prefer to sit under a tree and grumble about the state of the world, even your micro corner of it, rather than step out in faith and answer God’s call to serve and love others? And by others, I mean the ones who are not nice.

I realized early on in my faith that I have Jonah-like tendencies. I’m an introvert. Somewhat anti-social. I can have a bad attitude. 

Honestly the belly of a fish doesn’t seem so bad compared to reaching out to someone I don’t really like. Especially if they have aggressively different views, or personality, have been mean or rude, disrespectful, or peed on my lawn (I live in a college town), been a bully, thrown snowballs at the neighbor’s elderly dog, whatever, and quite frankly, aren’t anything like me.

I know I am not the only one that feels this way. Amazingly, the Bible is filled with other “Jonahs.” Moses (big-time, Old Testament hero) started out as a Jonah. When God asked him to save his people out of oppression and slavery he told God He must have the wrong guy. He told God he didn’t want to go back to Egypt. He had been there, done that, and wasn’t in any hurry to return. He told God to go ask his brother, Aaron, instead. Aaron was eloquent and better suited for the job.

And yet God wanted to use Moses, and Jonah … and wants to use me. 

God does not want a rain-check, he wants us. Obedience. God calls us to love others. Oh how I wish it were only the nice “others.” But, no. God loves the sheep that wandered away, and the prodigal. Jesus sought out and ate with “sinners.” In fact, God uses “sinners” to reach out to other “sinners.” Why? He still has a message to deliver: God loves all of us. He is still offering forgiveness and seeking restoration. And He is still using Jonahs to deliver this good news.

Sara Nelson O'Brien is the author of 
Available at 
1 Harry L. Drive, Johnson City, NY.

All photos are courtesy of
Whale Shark image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Whale and boat image by David Mark from Pixabay

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