I’m more like Jonah than I care to admit.

In the past, I admit, I have judged Jonah.  What a navel-gazing, self-absorbed jerk, right? He intimately knew God’s character- you know, that part where He describes Himself as “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” The part where He eagerly forgives those who repent and turn from their wicked ways? But Jonah knew better regarding HIS enemies and he had no desire for those wicked, no EVIL, wastes of life to experience forgiveness.  He wanted God’s judgment, wrath, and destruction to come upon the Ninevites in its full, glorious fury.  The Ninevites had been merciless and cruel toward Jonah’s brethren. So, instead of extending the message that might lead to the salvation of his enemies as God instructed him to do- Jonah ran. Like a chicken. A chicken who knew better than God.

Jonah. I take it back. I get it. I am seething with rage at ISIS. I am physically ill when I read about what is happening to my Brothers and Sisters at the hands of these evil men, so much so, that I want to personally take part in their destruction. I am sick with the desire for God to reign down such fierce vengeance that there would be left no doubt that He brought down the hammer on this unspeakable evil.

jonahSo I am humbled. Because I too know God’s character. I know He hates their actions. I also know He loves them enough to extend His mercy to them if they were to accept His message and turn from their evil ways. It is difficult for me to hold these two truths simultaneously. I want to either hate the behavior and have it flow into destroying the individual. Or I want to excuse the behavior because I love the person. But neither of these is Christ like. God alone (and those who are completely saturated in his Spirit) are able to do both with unwavering zeal.

The hard and wonderful Christian truth is this: no one who is living is too far gone.

No matter what I’ve done, what you’ve done, there is a way out.  There is new life and hope for those who grieve over their misdeeds and turn to the God who can cleanse their heart.  That rarely means that we escape the earthly consequences for our sins. But it does mean that we are freed from our spiritual shackles and made right with God.

ISIS, in its campaign to cleanse the world of Christianity and Judaism has destroyed the tomb of Jonah which was located near the ancient site of Ninevah. I wonder if God will send another Jonah.  I wonder if this Christian man or woman will be chosen from among the believers trapped in the mountains or from the Yazidi or the Kurds.  I wonder if they would rather get on a boat to China and endure a typhoon and be thrown in the sea than extend the offer of forgiveness to ISIS. My prayer is that those believers currently under siege, despite their trauma, are experiencing God’s presence and are being shaped into His image through this crisis. I pray that if they are called, they will proclaim the heart of the true God to ISIS.

I’d put my money on that Jonah.

 

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21 thoughts on “I’m more like Jonah than I care to admit.

  1. I’m afraid there’s no wait out of this one. The only option is to get rid of them. France managed in Mali, hopefully the world gets a move on in the middle east before more damage is done.

  2. I think the Christian message has been shared with them and they don’t care for it. They need to be destroyed.

    • Heh. Funny. Just finished posting this comment on a friend’s FB page regarding whether or not it is biblical to take ISIS out with military action or to shoot them when they come to your door to rape your wife and daughter. What would Jesus do? They asked. Here’s my thoughts:

      Christ’s love is a self-sacrificing love, one where we do not take personal vengeance but rather “turn the other cheek” for the sake of the gospel. It is not, however, an “others sacrificing” love. We do not sacrifice others for the gospel. Rather, Christ’s love is a protective love- where we rise up and defend the weakest among us.

      The question about how to deal with the “killing” issue is one of roles. God has set authorities in place (parents, government, military) to act justly on behalf of those under their authority. There was explicit punishments prescribed in the old testament for violent crimes such as murder and rape. But it was not those who were wronged who were to carry out the sentence, it was those with authority over the community who were charged with it. That is the distinction between “murder” (vengeful, personal) and “killing” as in the death penalty for rape.

      There has always been the mandate to forgive those who wrong us. But that doesn’t mean that things get swept under the rug. In the case of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, I heard one bishop speak of how if they believed in forgiveness, how could they remove the priest from his post? Because we can personally forgive while authorities simultaneously take action to bring justice. On that note, God help those who are under abusive parents, and corrupt governments. And thank God that we have a system that resists corruption, or at least has the ability to expose it where it exists.

      To be clear, I am not opposed to military action. There is no biblical conflict for the Christian who is serving in the Marines and hunting down Bin Laden or ISIS. In that context, it is not a vengeful personal vendetta, they are acting as an arm of country (authority) that they serve. Neither is there a conflict what so ever for a husband and father to protect his family from invaders or screen his daughter’s dates, or install anti-porn software into the family computers. He is charged with protecting his little flock, and this is a reflection of the nature of God the Father himself. It is also God like to sacrifice yourself, just as God the Son demonstrated for us when He died for His enemies. So, I would submit, that roles play a large part in understanding biblical action on this subject.

  3. I love the theology of this post! I think the most miraculous teaching of Christianity is that no one living is too far gone. But you’re right that it’s also one of the hardest to grasp for we who are not omniscient and all-loving. What you write above also points to one of the things I love about the language of the New Testament: the word that gets translated as both righteousness and justice in English is just one word, the same word, in Greek. Our love and forgiveness toward others is not a relinquishing of justice. They must go hand in hand in order to proclaim the shalom of the Kingdom of God and the way we are to live together as God’s children. Personally, the conviction that no one living is too far gone means I always want to find other options besides war or capital punishment (also because I believe in due process even for the most horrific of crimes), but I’m completely with you on the theology that underlies it. Thanks for the good word!

  4. I say kill them all. I must respectfully disagree with the statement “God has set authorities in place (parents, government, military) to act justly on behalf of those under their authority”. I am challenged to understand how the long list of dictators and totalitarian governments that have ruled over men have all been put in place by God, or how this could fit his plan. But if you are right, maybe God also made people like me who say “kill them all” for a reason.

    • Understood. If we are working from a Jewish framework, there is a presumption of justice on behalf of authorities. That is why we are to honor and obey our parents- because they are the ones who know the law and are responsible for passing it on to children. Also, it was commanded that the kings of Israel copy the law in their own hand prior to taking office and read it annually. So there was no confusion about the role government played in bringing justice to their people. In terms of government, the New Testament has this to say about why they “wield the sword”

      “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Romans 13:3-4 (Also 1 Pet 2:14)

      Again, the authorities which have been set over us are there to promote good and punish evil. And there was little debate about moral standards when emerging from a society based on the Mosaic Law.
      What of evil regimes then? That is difficult. Did God set those regimes in place or simply allow them to exist? Is there a difference? And what about God’s command for Israel to go to Holy War against the inhabitants of the “Promised Land”? They were just like modern ISIS if not worse and God literally used the Nation of Israel to purify the land of those conducting child sacrifice, sexual immorality in temple worship, necromancy, sorcery, bestiality, incest, etc. In the post about Jonah my husband informed me that the Ninevites were notorious for literally impaling their enemy alive through the anus on 18 foot poles leaving them to die. They would do this and right in front of them as they were suffering they would cut open pregnant women and stomp on the fetus. Then they would rape the women who were not pregnant and take them as brides or concubines. They would enslave the children and “re-educate” them according to their homeland worldview. So when Jonah was called of the LORD to preach repentance or wrath to the Ninevites, Jonah didn’t want them to repent for he knew GOD would show mercy. But let’s be clear, repentance is not an apology. Repentance meant a change of belief and action in keeping with a new set of beliefs. So for the Ninevites to repent meant they would take on the morality of the Jews and change their ways. This is one of many ways GOD brings about a change in a people.

      The other way is to raise up a Nation to take out the leadership of another Nation. Think of Daniel and the prophecies directed at the various kings. They were like the Ninevites (same geography, different time). Each of the kings would reign, get high and mighty on himself, be significantly humbled, and eventually be taken out by a new king, and each time it was prophesied, establishing GOD foreknows and even brings about His purposes in His timing.

      If America as a government does not act rightly, we will face the natural consequences, which in this case might include one or many terrorist acts on our home soil and certainly terror overseas. We might say, “Not fair! Not right!” But from GOD’s perspective He might be saying, “You are responsible for the leadership you put in place. And now you will get what you asked for.” This is precisely what happened to Israel. They did not trust the LORD as their King. They wanted a human king like all the other nations. So they “asked” Samuel for a king. Ryan often tells the story of 1 Kings, where they got Saul for a king and his name is literally spelled the same as the work “ask.” So they got what they asked for and Saul was a terrible king who brought nothing but war and problems to the Nation of Israel. So the Sovereign GOD of the Bible also genuinely interacts with free people to bring about what we know as history. And history is in the making as we do or do not rightly interact with GOD as individuals and as a nation.

  5. This is such a common moral conundrum that we all struggle with, and probably have all thru mankind. I don’t have any answers, except hatred just hurts the one doing the hating. The enemy has already taken so much when there is evil in the world, so if you can avoid handing him that one thing, mission accomplished.

    I try to remember those women at the foot of the cross and what it must have been like for them to have to witness so much suffering and be completely powerless to stop it. I don’t really understand it, but sometimes we are called to simply bear witness and grieve. That’s an important position, one that God places a great deal of value on, but it completely goes against our human instincts to try and fix it, stop it, or hide from it.

    That is not to say that Christians can’t ever fight back or that our leadership isn’t sitting there like a plate of soggy pasta, just that it’s good for us to remind ourselves that simply grieving and bearing witness is a far more important job than we realize.

  6. No hate but Islam must be destroyed. With a sad and heavy heart for any killing that will have to be done, but sadly it will need to be done.

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