Friday, August 28, 2009

Jonah the Drama Queen

"And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
(Jonah 4:3)

Success sucks. At least from Jonah's perspective. You remember Jonah, right? The guy who got swallowed by a whale (actually, the Bible says it was a 'big fish'). But do you remember WHY he got swallowed by some unnamed aquatic animal? God had tasked him to preach judgment to Nineveh - the wickedest city around. But Jonah ditched God (so he thought) and headed in the opposite direction - to a Spanish Club Med destination. God, however, doesn't get ditched easily... and caused a major sea storm to upset Jonahs' smooth sailing. Jonah convinced the crew to toss him overboard, believing it would appease God and stop the storm. Which it did! Hence, Jonah became fish chow.

But the "God who cannot be ditched" is also the "God whose plans cannot be thwarted." So after a 3-day 'time out,' leaving Jonah to sit and think about what he'd done (sound like something your mother would say?)... Jonah was then spotted wiping fish puke off himself on the beach. And then God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Again. And this time (surprise!), Jonah went.
To say Jonah's heart wasn't quite in it would be an understatement. The best he could do was one 8-word sermon to the people of Nineveh: "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" No cross-cultural sensitivity. No attempt to teach proper behavior change. No hint of mercy or grace. Just simple, straight-forward destruction prediction. Period.
The problem was that people listened. Seriously. They believed God! They changed their ways. Fro the king to their pet sheep!! AND GOD CHANGED HIS MIND. No destruction plans. Period.

Which brings us back to Jonah. The immensely successful revival preacher was not pleased with these results. "What? They believed me?!? They repented? REALLY!?!?! Dang. Crap. That really sucks! JUST KILL ME NOW, O GOD! JUST KILL ME NOW!!!"

A few verses later in the story we find out this was why Jonah tried ditching God in the first place: he knew God's history with forgiveness & grace... and he didn't want those lousy Ninevites to have any part of it. None! Plus, now he looks stupid. Jonah predicted hellfire & destruction... and it ain't gonna happen. (And Jonah just hates looking stupid!)

Funny, isn't it... that we get so wrapped up in our ideas of good and evil... of right & wrong... of justice & mercy... of who's "worthy" of 2nd chances and who's not... that we become offended when God's grace and love trumps our good sense. "Just kill me now!" we cry out. "Seriously?" God asks us. Seriously!?!?

Maybe, just maybe, we can learn something from Jonah's misplaced 'righteous indignation.' Maybe it's not about us and our perspective... but that God might have a bigger picture in view. Maybe we can skip all of the drama, and leave it to God to sort out? Maybe...

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