Read Jonah 3:1-10
For some of us, the most insecure moments of our lives have been where we have had to make public appearances among unknown people for a specific occasion. It may be a public reception, starting in a new school, new job, meeting the potential in-laws for the first time, or even walking into a church. The reality is that there are times when blending in is not easy when we show up to new and unknown places. For some, it is even harder than for others, and that is just for the events in our lives that are new and unique. Then there is the everyday in and out of our lives. . . the work that we do, the school we attend, the social circles that we gather in, or the online comments that we make and leave behind. Do we blend in or do we stand out? If we stand out, who do we stand out for?
By the time we engage God’s word in Jonah chapter 3, the prophet has had some incredible experiences that could never go unnoticed upon his entry into Ninevah. A foreign land, with a foreign message of sin and repentance from the God of heaven and earth; this was Jonah’s message to share. This was Jonah’s call to come to someplace new and offer a way that would change everyday living.
Ninevah offered a culture that was carnal, confused, and brutally violent. As we reflect that God’s calling of Jonah was to engage this culture by going “to the Great City of Ninevah” and to “preach against it” (Jonah 1:2), we have no hard time relating to Jonah’s desire to never show up to begin with. The message that he was tasked to preach offered in return a risk of personal safety for himself, as well as risk of Israel’s enemies having the chance to turn from their ways and make peace with God. After running from God’s call, being cast into the sea, and then spending three days in the fish, Jonah’s subsequent condition of being spit up on the enemy’s shore shows all of us that his life does not blend in to the typical human experience. Furthermore, can we only imagine the physical differences between Jonah and the citizens of Ninevah? Talk about a public appearance where insecurity may abound… not only was he going to be identified as a foreigner, but he had just lived for three days inside of a fish! Based on his physical appearance alone, no doubt that he would not have blended in. With inconspicuous arrival not being an option, Jonah’s first steps into the city were going to be steps that stood out.
His preaching would separate him even more.
I have never been called to a task as powerfully as Jonah and I am certainly not a prophet. However, I do know that I have been called to not blend into the world around us and, as a member of Christ’s kingdom, to bring the message of the peace that God brings to all people who I encounter. Our society is a society of confusion. Though we are different from the Ninevites in many ways, we are very much like them as our people are longing for those to live among them and share a message of hope in troubling times. How we go about doing this, engaging our daily lives at work, school, our neighborhoods and yes, even the comments and posts that we leave behind, says everything to a world around us about the character of the church and message of the God who we are called to represent. I am inspired by Jonah’s courage among his disobedience and his obedience in light of his courage. I ask you to join me in praying for all of us (myself included), that, in the light of obedience that God has called us to, we would strand out as those who enter our city on a daily basis, bringing the message of peace and hope offered by Christ.