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The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1:1-2

I’ve heard the story of ‘Jonah and the Whale’ retold hundreds of times in Sunday School,VacationBibleSchool, Sunday sermons and even a few theology classes. I know all about the typology of Jonahs three days in the belly of a fish and Jesus’ three days in the tomb.

I know the lesson about not running from God, about the faith Jonah had and how ungrateful he was. I know the story about the faithfulness and forgiveness of God as evidenced by his holding back the judgment promised because of the repentance of the city ofNineveh.

Yet there is another part of this story that escaped me until recently. The Biblical record tells us little about Jonah’s background other than the fact that he was a prophet and that he chose to run from God rather that go where God sent him.

Jonah was most likely a good prophet. His ability to preach the word of God is evidenced by the fact that his message brought a city of 120,000 people to their knees, literally. But Jonah was also a proud and stubborn man. When questioned on the boat about whom he was he proudly testified to his heritage (“I am a Hebrew”) and his theology (“I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Jonah 1:9).

His stubbornness is evidenced by the fact that he refused to follow the leading of the very God he professed to worship and then became angry when God relented of his judgment over repentantNineveh.

Stubbornness and pride are two things God can not honor in a ministry, and all of us, regardless of our walk in life are ministers in some way to the Father. We can be successful, but we will never experience the full measure of God’s blessing if we are governed by pride and stubbornness.

Nineveh can stand for anything that goes against our cultural heritage and our doctrinal/theological distinctives. Ninevehwasn’t the squeaky clean, suburban ministry. It was the little rural church made up of people who were content to stay the way they are. It was the inner city ministry with little money and large problems. It was no place for someone who rigidly stuck to their doctrine.

Nineveh didn’t need more religion, they needed relationship and Jonah was unwilling to give it to them. The story of Jonah is a story of grace. God asked Jonah to show grace to a people he disagreed with culturally, religiously and socially and Jonah refused. His story begs an answer from each of us. If we believe we are called to be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ (and Matthew 28 gives us that charge) are we willing to passionately pursue those who are different than us in order to show them the forgiveness, mercy and love of Jesus Christ? Jonah wasn’t called to preach his own opinions; he was called to turn people towards the God of heaven, a God who passionately desires to bring ALL people to himself. If your Father calls you to preach to a group of people you dislike, are you willing to go in love?

PRAYER: Father, the message of Jonah is renewed in my heart today. I confess to you that I’ve been close-minded in ministry because of my own standards and doctrine. Open my heart and my eyes to those to whom I’ve been withholding your word by my deeds and attitudes. Amen.

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June 2012
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