ESSAY-LIKE SUNDAY MORNING: Todays lesson was well taught by Sister Johnson. It was entitled, SEEING THE BIG PICTURE. The Scripture was from Jonah 4:1-11. The KEY VERSE was verse 11 which reads, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?” (NIV)
The lesson’s INTRODUCTION talked about the great Indian leader, Mohandas K. Gandhi. The lesson referenced his autobiography by stating that “during his student days he was truly interested in the Bible” and that he’d “considered becoming a convert [a Christian]” since Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system” [In India, a system of discrimination based on “class” differences] “that was dividing India.
One Sunday, he went into a nearby church to attend services. He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. Gandhi left and never came back. ‘If Christians have caste differences also,’ he’d said to himself. ‘I might as well remain a Hindu.’”
Reading this story in our text today, reminded me of another quote by Gandhi which says, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful. I like your Christ, but you Christians – you are not like him.” What a sad commentary—by an outsider, looking in—on the state of our affairs as Christians. As we see Jonah, so Gandhi saw Christians.
In today’s lesson, Jonah didn’t think that the Ninevites deserved to be saved. He thought that the atrocities they’d performed on their own people daily, and their enslavement and abuse of the Israelites in times past, should preclude them from God’s goodness and mercy. Some of us probably think that Jonah was wrong and hypocritical for his attitudes about the Ninevites but Gandhi’s experience with Christians impressed upon him that Christians were just like Jonah—hypocrites.
In today’s Scripture, Jonah had fulfilled his “obligation” of preaching to the Ninevites to cease their wicked ways or God would rain down destruction on the City, but he wasn’t happy about doing it; not happy at all, for his revival preaching had been too successful for his taste. Everyone in Nineveh repented. Jonah didn’t like that, for he knew that God would now save the city.
Jonah was so mad that he exiled HIMSELF to the desert. Once there, he built a little hut so that he could watch the “fireworks”, just in case God came through with some city smashing after all. God looked at Jonah and had pity on him sitting in the hot sun so, he appointed a tree to grow up and provide Jonah shade from the scorching sun, but the next morning, God said “PSYCH!” and sent a worm to devour the tree and a scorching wind from the east to turn up the heat on Jonah and his foolishness. Jonah got even angrier.
[NOTE: Did you know that Jonah was a Black man? He HAD to be Black because, only a Black man, would go to a hot, sandy place, then get mad because the place is hot and sandy. If you don’t believe me, go to Panama City Beach and observe!]
God spoke to Jonah and said:
“9.) … “What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?”
Jonah said, “Plenty of right. It’s made me angry enough to die!”
This was the second time Jonah had told God he wanted to die. I wonder what he would have done if God had granted him that request:
I saw a skit once, on an episode of the Mad TV show, in which, a woman’s husband was being funeralized. The woman [Barbara] got up to say a few words over her deceased husband, but was suddenly overcome with grief. She began to yell, “Take me! Take me Jesus!”. After a minute or two of shouting, “Jesus” [played by comedian/actor, Michael McDonald] walked into the room saying, “Alright Barbara let’s go!”
“Wha-wha, go where?” Barbara stammered.
“Jesus” replied, “Well, you said you wanted me to take you instead of your husband. So, that’s what I’m going to do now come on!”
Well, needless to say, Barbara wasn’t REALLY ready to go after all! I’d venture to say that, if God had come down for Jonah at that very moment, he would have been “OUT OF THERE, LIKKETY SPLIT!”
10-11) … “What’s this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can’t I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?”
Jonah seemed to care more about the tree than he did for the people of Nineveh. Ghandi said that [some] Christians are like this too! They care more about their cars, homes, pets, etc. than they care about the homeless, starving, poverty-stricken, and sick people of the world.
I once saw a news story about a deer that had fallen through the ice of a frozen pond. Someone saw the struggling dear and before you could say “BAMBI”—firemen, police, farmers with tractors, road crews, people with ropes and wenches, heating blankets and deer food, were swarming pond-side. Finally, several men formed a human chain and secured the rescue of the poor deer.
YET, some of those same people had probably just driven right past homeless people, freezing in the cold, without a second thought, AND to make matters worse, had probably gone deer hunting the following day.
Who was Nineveh to Jonah—really? Who is Nineveh to US? Nineveh is EVERYONE who is in need of saving. Nineveh is EVERYONE who is in need of SALVATION. Nineveh is EVERYONE who cries out for HELP. Nineveh is EVERYONE in need of MERCY. Nineveh is EVERYONE in need of LOVE. Nineveh is your NEIGHBOR.
Jesus told the Pharisees that the GREATEST COMMANDMENT is to LOVE God and to LOVE our NINEVEH, I mean NEIGHBOR as ourselves.
Who is my NEIGHBOR? Remember the story of the “GOOD SAMARITAN”? EVERYONE is our NEIGHBOR!
Look at the BIG PICTURE. STOP MAJORING in MINORS. You might miss something or someone.