Tuesday, August 4 2020 - 6:30 PM
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Saving the World?

Jonah… his name means “dove” and can be translated as a term of endearment “my sweet dove”. How funny is that? Have you read the story of Jonah “the dove” i.e. the bad prophet? It’s a great read. God called to his “sweet dove” and asked him to go into the heart of the Assyrian empire, Nineveh and warn the folks there that God was calling their number unless they’d stop all their evil ways. The Sweet Dove says, “no way.” Actually, he doesn’t say it out loud, but instead, packs a small carry-on and heads for the wharf and the first ship going in the opposite direction. Sure, Sweet Dove, sail out of God’s view, get out of the Almighty’s range and all will be well.

Soon the ship is nearly sinking and that’s when the guilt-ridden Jonah asks to be tossed overboard into God’s storm. Reluctantly they toss him over and suddenly the water stills, while Jonah, sure he’s drowning, suddenly finds himself breathing in a very slimy fermented sort of place he soon confirms to be a fish’s belly. Sure that God can see him now, Jonah prays like never before, gagging on the odors of rotting fish food, no doubt, and soon he’s puked out near shore, alive, well, and filled with a new sense of respect for God. Did I say that Jonah was a prophet? He was. That means that Sweet Dove knew and had agreed that God was his boss. So off Jonah now goes to Nineveh, at his bosses command. Smelling, to be sure, like a fish.*

And Jonah yells at the people of Nineveh. And the people of Nineveh respond to every word and turn a 180 degrees and begin to worship God and behave accordingly. And God, relieved, is able to remove the threat of their self-inflicted implosion. It’s a lovely, “repent and be saved” kind of ending, where those doomed are reached and restored and all are spared. It’s lovely.

But Sweet Dove Jonah does not think so. He’s ticked. He tells God how mad he is. Why? Because he just knew God would forgive and not burn these people to ashes—in fact—that’s why he’d run from the job in the first place—he knew God wouldn’t destroy like he promised, God was way to loving and longsuffering. Jonah hated life after he realized that the whole city was spared, and he had been part of it.

What you have to know at this point in the story is that the Assyrians had harassed, and at times severely dominated, the Israelites for hundreds of years before Jonah went to help them. These people were his personal enemies. No wonder he was angry and disappointed at their repentance. Sweet Dove had a hard heart. He hated his enemies. Unfortunately for Jonah, God is love and his teachings clearly expose all lack of love, even towards enemies as evil. So really, if you think about it, the mission given to this prophet was to save his soul. It was a long, drawn out expedition in which Jonah could realize his hatred, face it, give in to God’s love, and finally, at least acknowledge (hopefully embrace) the love of God.

And here’s where you and I enter. Many of us are on missions to change, save or in some way build up people and places around us. We’re (especially if you work for a church organization like I did for many years) propelled by a call from God to make a difference in the world around us. And that’s what I thought I was up to, changing the world. And now, looking back on my life so far, honestly, was it the world that got changed? Maybe not. It was me. God was after my hard heart most of the time. Using my work and calling to expose my mixed up view and feelings and then propel me to live otherwise and change.
We think we’re saving the world. Really, God is saving us. It’s a lovely thought.

Clarissa Worley Sproul writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Clarissa Worley Sproul

Clarissa Worley Sproul

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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