If you haven’t read the book of Jonah by now, you are missing out. You are missing out on a story that is short but suspenseful. You are missing out the silly argument between a feeble man and his mighty creator. Most of all, you’re missing out on the infinite compassion of God to the point that makes Jonah mad. I might have spoiled the suspense of reading the story in the Book of Jonah (Old Testament book), but go read it NOW before reading the rest of this article. This writing is to show that there is a “little Jonah” in each of us. Disclaimer: I am not by any means saying that Jonah was not God’s messenger. He is a great man of God. Nonetheless, as other God’s people such as King David and Saint Peter had human weaknesses, Jonah also had some flaws that we can all relate to and also learn from the story.
What we are called to do
Jonah is called to be the prophet of God. A prophet was supposed to be the one who would reveal the word of God for his nation. His or her mere responsibility as a prophet is to do just that. However, we can see how Jonah neglected his divine duty to be the voice of God. He overlooked such a graceful privilege giving himself an excuse of God’s mercy. Jonah told himself why bother with others (the Ninevites) reminding them about the consequence of their sinful life while knowing how God is always merciful?
Aren’t we Jonah in the same sense? Think about it. We are called to be Disciples of Christ and our sole responsibility is to be a child of God. Knowing God’s unlimited compassion, we show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). We abandon the calling to be a witness like Jonah and tell ourselves "why strive to purity when God is merciful?" That in turn will lead us to being content in sinful life.
When the Darkness comes…
Using God’s mercy as an excuse, Jonah tried to disappear to the city of Tarshish and he ended up sleeping in the below deck of a ship while the ship is under stress. Eventually, the sailors threw him out into the ocean where he was swallowed by a great whale. Jonah at this time came to his senses and realized that he can’t run away from God and while in the belly of a whale, Jonah prayed a sincere prayer.
Aren’t we like Jonah when we face hardships? We always try to sleep using different distractions not to see that the ship (our life) is sinking (given that other commentaries say that Jonah slept without worry for his unyielding faith in God). On the other hand, we only bother to pray when we are in darkness. When situations corner us and when there is nowhere to go, our last resort will be prayer. There is an important verse in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” We only associate youth with age. But this verse reminds us to remember the lord even when everything is smooth in our life and there is no trials. Intentionally remember and praise Him and thank Him without asking anything in return for He first so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) And this is without asking anything in return.
Worrying so much about reputation
Jonah was disappointed that after he preached to the Ninevites that they would be destroyed; the city was spared because of God’s compassion. Jonah was now worried that he would be called a false prophet. Jonah believed in the true God, but he was troubled of what others might say about him.
Don’t most of us hide our true belief for the sake of what others might say about us? It worries us that we might lose friends, be judged because of how we practice our faith, and to be honest most of us are ashamed to be called an Orthodox Christian in public.
Eager to see failure
After Jonah preached to the Ninevites, he went out of the city and made a shelter for him to see what would happen to the city of Nineveh. He overlooked that if anything does happen, it should happen for the glory of God. He wasn’t too happy about the forgiveness of God. He knows God is forgiving but didn’t want to see that applied to others in this circumstance. He wanted to see the wrath of God.
If we are truly honest, don’t we like to see punishment instead of mercy like Jonah? All the medias and movies focus on revenge and getting someone back instead of forgiveness. Revenge and war sells; NOT forgiveness. Even in a personal level, deep down we want to see the wrath of God on transgressors and those who are in a wrong path, instead of genuinely praying for those people “who cannot tell their right hand from their left.” Our prayers for such people are pity. It is enclosed with bitterness and judgment instead of love and the only reason is that we desire to see failure.
Every year when the fast of Nineveh comes, let’s bring the story to our life and see us through the accounts. By doing so, our fast will be fruitful. Let us change ourselves in how we see things and strive to change the “little Jonah” that we all have inside of us.