Ask yourself, what would Jonah do?

Published 12:09 pm Friday, November 16, 2007

By Staff
We are familiar with the question, "What would Jesus do?" There is ample evidence of the complete obedience of Jesus to His Father in heaven (John 15:10). The compassion of Jesus is documented in Matthew 9:36: "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." Jesus was self-sacrificing (John 10:11). Jesus delights in every soul who exercises repentance and faith (Matthew 8:10; Matthew 15:28).
In many ways, Jonah is the antithesis of Jesus. God gave Jonah the command to go to Nineveh and preach that judgment was coming. Jonah refused the command of the Lord and not only did not go to Nineveh, but purposed to go as far in the other direction as he could (Jonah 1:3). When confronted by difficult circumstances as a result of his disobedience, Jonah was defiant against God and wanted to die rather than obey (Jonah 1:12). It took three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish in the depths of the sea for Jonah to finally relent from his independence and agree to obey God (Jonah 2:7-9). After all this coercion by God, Jonah finally went to Nineveh and preached.
Jonah did not like the people of Nineveh. They were wicked and violent (Jonah 3:8). Jonah did not see how God could love such people.
The people of Nineveh heard Jonah's message and repented. When they turned from their wickedness, God relented from the disaster He planned to bring on them (Jonah 3:10). The actions of the people of Nineveh enraged Jonah (Jonah 4:1). Jonah told God if He was going to be merciful to the people of Nineveh to just kill him (Jonah 4:2-3). The bitterness of Jonah was so deep against sinners that he would have delighted in their destruction, and he wanted to die when they lined up with the Living God of Heaven.
What would Jonah do?
Jonah believed that sin requires punishment, especially sins of violence. There was no grace in Jonah's life. He had certain sins categorized. He was bigoted in that he believed certain people had a corner on God. People with a different culture and customs did not deserve to even know about God.
Jonah minimized the power of God, even though he had obviously experienced it himself and was a preacher called out by God. Jonah minimized God's will.
Jonah questioned the sincerity of the response of the people of Nineveh. He was so sure it was a shallow and false repentance that he watched the city from a distance to see what would happen (Jonah 4:5). Jonah believed wickedness would triumph and soon the people would plunge back into evil practices.
Jonah did not recognize a work of God. Jonah was a Jew and a predecessor of the Pharisees who saw Gentiles as less than human. Jonah refused to engage in the ministry of encouragement even after God had declared that judgment would be delayed (Jonah 3:10-4:1).
In our day it is still the mind of Jesus versus the mind of Jonah. Jesus gave His life for sinners. He died on a cross that even the very people who were involved in every aspect of killing Him could have eternal salvation. God loves the world-every person in every corner of it (John 3:16).
Today, we tend to circle the wagons against wickedness and violence. The power of the gospel has not diminished (1 Corinthians 1:18). The preaching of the gospel cost many of the original apostles their lives. Paul said, in Acts, chapter 20, verse 24, "I [do not] count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." Paul called himself the "chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). He knew God had saved him, and could and would save anybody else regardless of the extent of their sin.
What would Jonah do today? Nothing; he would sit idly by in self-preservation, not venturing anything of God to a lost and dying world.
It is Jesus or Jonah; what will we do?