JONAH, SLEEPINESS AND SERVING OTHERS
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the book of Jonah?
Probably a fish and a cucumber. :)
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. At the same time, the actual fish appears in just a few lines in the story. To the ancient reader, the fish isn’t the thing. There’s something more going on.
Reading Jonah carefully is like eating your vegetables. It’s good for you, but not very fun.
In this short book the reader is exposed to some of the worst human tendencies of God’s own people, yet at the same time seeing God’s unconditional and relentless grace despite our foolishness and sin.
One of those tendencies is to be apathetic or asleep to sin and its effects on others. In chapter one, Jonah son of Ammati (literally Dove son of Faithfulness), has run away from God’s call and has decided to board a ship in the opposite direction. Through the events of the first chapter, the prophet man of God is fast asleep in the bottom of a ship that is at the mercy of a great sea storm. The sailors on board are frantic and scared. Jonah, well he’s fast asleep. He’s unaware and apathetic.
Two things stand out from this first section.
1. Jonah’s spiritual sleepiness (and ours) makes us unaware of the world’s problems.
In Jonah 1, Jonah himself is completely unaware of the problems around him. When we are self-absorbed and constantly defining what is good and right on our own terms, we eventually get to the place where we are completely apathetic and unaware of real problems in the lives of others around us. Life becomes all about us. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus comes to give us life and awake us to the reality of what it truly means to be human - serving and loving others. We begin to see what true freedom is all about. Loving God and loving neighbor. Jesus followers are becoming more and more alive and aware to the deep hurting needs of other individuals and of societal problems. They don’t just become more aware, they begin to act. With small acts of mercy and kindness, Jesus followers have an incredible opportunity to be aware, serve and bless others - even those who don’t believe and act the same way Jesus followers do.
2. Jonah’s sleepiness (and ours), puts us in a place where we unable to adequately help and serve others.
This sort of piggy backs on the first point, but at the same time nuances it in a slightly different way. In a state of selfishness that leads to spiritual apathy and sleepiness, Jonah doesn’t have the resources and ability to serve and bless those in need. Something similar can and does happen to us today. But again, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus transforms our hearts and minds to feel and think like he does. He gives us His Spirit and His Word and His Church to help equip us for the task of serving and blessing others. Jesus is so utterly committed to us and to others that His love demonstrated on the cross compels us to love and serve.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR COMMUNITY AND JESUS CENTER CHURCH
The good news through all of this is that God is not done with Jonah. God pursues with grace and mercy. This is good news. God wants to invite Jonah into being a part of seeing people far from God come to know him for who he truly is. Today, God wants to do the same.
As we begin to plant Jesus Center Church, one of our prayers is that we would become more and more aware to the needs and hurts of our community. Where is the city of Seaside looking for help? Where can we come alongside and serve? Sometimes we can get so focused on our own lives, or an issue that may be important, but not something the world is concerned about and thus miss out on opportunities to love and bless.
What areas do you see where we can come alongside and help? We by no means have all the answers or resources, but at the same time, God loves to use willing and humble men and women to love and bless his good world.