Considering Those We Are Serving

Jonah, in the Bible, lived during the time of Jeroboam II (793-753) in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. His name, Jonah, means dove which symbolizes peace. It is a paradox that Jonah’s life, at least during the time God was pursuing him constantly to bring him to his plan, was far away from being peaceful. My opinion is in alignment with what C.S. Lewis said in his The Problem of Pain, that “when we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy”.

It all starts when God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and “preach to them. They are in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any longer” (Jonah 1:2 Message). Even children who have heard the story will remember that Jonah refused to go maybe because the Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian was home to enemies of Israel, and that instead he “got up and went to the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God” (Jonah 1:3 Message).

God’s dealings with Jonah came in the form of great storm that menaced the ship he was traveling on to “run” from the God. After the sailors tried to throw cargo into the see to lighten the ship in efforts to save the passengers from calamity and failed, they decided to cast lots and Jonah got discovered. Even after Jonah admitted that he was the cause of the fury of the sea and suggested that they should pick him and throw him into the sea, the sailors who were heathen/Gentiles – “foreigners to the covenants of the promise” Eph. 2:12, according to Paul, “Instead, the men did their best to row back to land” (Jonah 1:13 NIV).

What amazes me is how those Gentiles showed more concern and compassion for him than he had for them. Remember, he refused to go preach to the Gentiles, yet, this time they are preaching to him love and care by avoiding throwing him into the sea.

Of course we are not taking Jonah as our role model in serving God. What lesson can we draw from his life? As we look at our attitude towards those who are around us, those to whom we have come to help, those who we consider as needful. Are some of them not probably showing more compassion and concern for us than we do for them? Yes, they need our services. Yes, we have come to minister to them or should assist them. What about the possibility of us not getting into what God really intended us to do and going instead to the other direction?

My emphasis is not on the “fury” of issues that come as a result of choosing a pulpit that is different from what God sent us to. My challenge is on how we may sometimes disregard the lessons, the education and the good and probably divine behavior of our targeted population simply because we think we know better, better equipped with material/financial resources and therefore best suited to help. Let us keep remembering that God wants us be concerned with all. God so loved the world and love should be our driving force and love should have room to consider other people’s positive behavior.

The final part of the story of Jonah is that God successfully restored him. “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and wen to Nineveh (Jonah 3:3 NIV)”. When we fail to obey His directives, the good news, in accordance to the story of Jonah, God, with our choice to obey, will do all in His sovereignty, to ensure that our relationship with Him is restored, particularly so that we may fulfil His plan, and for His glory.

By David Niyonzima, WMF Burundi

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