Reading: Jonah 4
The other day my wife Donna and I were riding along the Interstate in congested Tampa traffic. On my left, I couldn't help but notice the irony in the bumper stickers on the passing car. One on the back left side of this car read, “War is the not the answer.” One on the right read, “I am Pro-Choice.” The only thing missing to complete the trifecta of modern logical inconsistency would be the “Save the Whales” bumper sticker. But two were enough.
Each of these bumper stickers speaks of a question. “War is not the answer.” This is a sticker I sympathize with because, as I heard President Obama say recently, “Nobody likes war.” With the understood exception of the maniacal individuals that exist in the world—whether the Joseph Stalin's and Adolph Hitler's of the world, or those of the same mindset who have no power—it is safe to say that nobody likes war. But to say, “war is not the answer” presumes a question, and since the question is missing, the implied meaning is, “No matter what the question, war is not the answer.” Even if an Adolph Hitler kind of individual is slaughtering millions of Jews and Christians a nation's answer to Hitler is not war. In other words, “At all costs, killing other people is never one of the answers.”
Now my mind moves across the back of the car, now further ahead, to the right. “I am Pro-Choice.” What was the choice? To “choose” also implies a question. What question was presented to the person who needed to make a choice? It could have been a number of questions, but usually something like, “I am pregnant, and what if I am not ready to have a child?” Or, “... what if I think this baby would destroy my life?” Or, “...what if my mental welfare is at risk if I were to have a child at this point in my life?” No doubt, there are many variations on this. But the point of the bumper sticker is the same: No matter what the question, killing the child in the womb must be one of the possible answers.
By now you might have another question running through your mind: What does any of this have to do with Jonah? I'm glad you asked. This morning I read the ever intriguing book of Jonah. In short, Jonah is told to go preach to the Ninevites—that wicked people who had a history of evil deeds. He was to call them to repentance, warning of disaster that would come if they failed to repent. Jonah bought a ticket on the first ship he found heading in the opposite direction of Nineveh. Why? Because he “knew that You [Yahweh, God] are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.” (Jonah 4:2 HCSB) He wanted God to destroy those wicked people. For Jonah, at this point, war was the answer...war in which Nineveh was destroyed.
The Lord wanted to teach Jonah something about Himself, and reveal something false in Jonah's thinking about the Ninevites. So the Lord caused a plant to grow up and provide shade over Jonah's head, and Jonah really liked his plant. However, then the Lord caused a worm to attack and kill the plant. This was followed by the Lord appointing a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah along with the scorching sun beating down on Him (without the shade of the plant). Jonah was so downcast that he wanted to die (Jonah 4:4-8) The Lord then confronts the fallacy in Jonah's thinking.
10So the LORD said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. 11Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:10-11 HCSB)
Jonah definitely would have had a “save the plant” sticker on the back of his donkey. But he didn't like God's pro-life attitude toward the Ninevites. He wanted to choose for the Ninevites whether or not they should live. He did not recognize that every human being (even those who were his enemies) were made in God's image and much more valuable than a plant. He couldn't see past his own comforts and discomforts and recognize the value of human life. Jonah didn't like that God placed the value of human life above the value of choice. Jonah wanted to choose to keep the plant, but kill the people of Nineveh. However, I speculate that Jonah repented and God granted him forgiveness.
Now this is but a minor point drawn from Jonah's story. For a brief look at how Jonah's faith—the faith that led him to flee from the Lord—might actually help us to run headlong into fulfilling the great commission, see If Only We had the Faith of Jonah!
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