Maybe it's because I spent 12+ hours in the car the past two days -- with my daughter. My almost-three-year-old who is in love with the Veggie Tales, and Jonah in particular. She watched it twice today, between Gadsden, AL and Lexington, KY, and I had a lot of time to ponder the life and message of this prophet.
I DID go back and review the actual book of Jonah, since I was pretty sure that there wasn't a Jiminy Cricket-type character in the original, and I was fairly certain that Jonah and the crew didn't play 'Go Fish' to see who got tossed overboard. The movie is, however, pretty true to the message of the book, so I felt pretty safe. And I realized something.
We are Jonah.
Jonah was a guy who was given a message. A really important message -- one that a whole people needed to hear. And what was his response?
"I don't like those people".
And he didn't go. In fact, he ran away -- from God, and from the people God sent him to. As fast as he could, and as far as he could. Until God got tired of the games.
We've got a message. Christians have been given a mesage that the world needs to hear -- the message that no matter how messed up we are, no matter what we've done in the past, God loves us enough to sacrifice His Son for us, so that we can be reconciled with Him. So that we can live with Him forever. And what do we do?
I don't like those people
I sat in a church service on Sunday at the Campus Church at Pensacola Christian College, listening to a speaker who talked about "the queers" down at the beach. Memorial Day weekend is a huge business weekend for businesses in Pensacola, but in the past several years Pensacola has been the target destination for gay and lesbian vacationers. There were thousands of "the queers" on the beach at the very time that the sermon was being preached. If the speaker (who I will not name, though many people who read this blog have probably never heard of the man) had really been concerned about the eternal destination of "the queers", he'd have been down on the beach sharing Christ with them, rather than sitting in a sanctuary using an incredibly vulgar term to describe them, and then consigning them to hell. He "don't like those people".
[I don't like the terminology that he used any more than many of you do, and I apologize for repeating it. I know many gay people, and probably know many more who haven't chosen to tell me about their lifestyle. My response to them is the same as to anyone I know who is a sinner (which is, after all, all of us) -- God loves you, and Jesus died for you, so that you can be freed from sin's slavery. Just trust Him, and repent of your sin. As Christ Himself said, "Go, and sin no more".]
As reprehensible as this account is, each of us do something similar every day. We encounter people, or know of people, who need to be shown Christ's love and compassion. But we "don't like those people", so we walk away. Maybe they stink. Maybe their breath is funny. Maybe they drink, or smoke. Maybe they're (gasp) a Democrat. They still need Jesus.
In Acts 1, Jesus is telling the disciples who they are going to be witnesses to. One of the places they're told to go is "Samaria". To Jews, this was about the worst thing they could have heard. The Samaritans were unclean. The refused to worship at the Temple, building their own houses of worship in their own country. Jewish traders would plan their routes around Samaria, taking days or weeks longer to complete a trip, just to stay away from Samaria. They didn't "like those people". They went anyway -- not in judgement, or anger, or condemnation, but in love, and compassion. They brought the love of Christ to Samaria -- to "those people".
We must do the same.