Jonah 1:10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
There are 3 key values which are at the center of the culture in which we live. Those values are multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance. The problem is that these values are based on untruths and outright lies. Culture is the social contract by which we live together, a set of rule we all share in common. Multiculturalism means that some people, while part of our culture, are living by a different contract, a different set of rules should govern their behavior, and it would be inappropriate for them to follow the rules we follow. Or to put it another way, multiculturalism means that there are lots of different contracts, we all might be doing the same work, but some people are getting a lot more than others. I don’t think that is something we value, I don’t believe we think that it is fair – but that’s the way it is in the world today.
Diversity is a term used to say, not only, that everyone is different – but that they have a right to be different, and we have no right to expect them to observe the social conventions on which society is based. We may choose to observe the 7th commandment, and not to steal, but to help our neighbor improve and protect his property and income – but we dare not expect others to observe this, they may choose to believe that stealing is right and proper, that they should do it regularly – and – they expect that no one should tell them that stealing is wrong – the only thing that they may agree is wrong is getting caught.
Tolerance means that I have to follow all the rules, but should not expect that anyone else need follow the rules. After all, diversity and multiculturalism give permission to portions of society not to follow the rules – and I should cheerfully accept this. I should let everyone do what is right in his own eyes because that is one of the freedoms our nation is said to have given us.
I DON’T THINK SO!
Our text this evening gives us a good example of how cultures should interact, and what’s wrong with doing what’s right for us, or what’s right in our eyes, or what’s convenient. Jonah knew what God expected him to do, Jonah had heard it clearly – but Jonah didn’t want to do, what God had called him to do – and Jonah was so dead set against doing God’s will that he deliberately and purposely set off in the wrong direction, he didn’t just stay home, he didn’t just ignore it, he purposely ran away.
And in our culture, based on its values, one would have to say that Jonah had a perfect right to do what he did. If God wanted to call Jonah to repentance, God could certainly do so, but Jonah could resist or ignore God, if that’s what he chose. But the problem was that Jonah’s decision had a greater impact that just on Jonah – Jonah’s sin put a lot of other people in danger.
The sailors on the boat were not Israelites, but they knew in times of trouble everyone ought to call upon their God – and there was Jonah sleeping. These outsiders called on Jonah, not to server their gods, but to do his duty and call on his God – and when they learned that Jonah had rebelled against his God they were terrified. So it is, that God uses these gentile outsiders to call Jonah to repentance – but Jonah still is not right with God.
What’s the point? We know that God wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth – while the catastrophe at sea clearly demonstrates God power and might, this is clearly not what God had in mind when he meant that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth, God uses Jonah’s sin to bring this to pass, not because he had to, but because of his mercy.
Jonah’s sin, didn’t just endanger him, it endangered all around him. And just as Jonah is not free to do what he pleases, so we also, are not free to do what we please – our sins place others endanger, perhaps not as dramatically as Jonah, but in still danger is danger. Our actions therefore are not just things that effect us, and things we need to get forgiveness for, just between us and God – but since God has placed us in community, our actions effect others – we might say to ourselves – I’ve got the right to choose Hell, but we clearly don’t have the right to bring others down with us.
Sometimes, in his mercy, God uses outsiders to call us to repentance – and this should shame us, but more than that, it should lead us to repent, because the one thing God wants to do more than anything else, is not to punish sin, but to forgive us, that’s why Jesus suffered and died, that we might be forgiven.