I'm starting a sermon series on Sunday in the book of Jonah. I know that there are those who dispute the authenticity of the book or even the veracity of the story. I don't argue about it. If I can believe that God spoke this world into existence (which Genesis says He did) then I can believe that He provided a large fish to provide an "Atlantis" for Jonah! I'm just saying...
As I reflect on Jonah, I am a bit amazed at how he spiritualized his hatred for others. Before we come down too hard on the man, let's understand his position. As a good Jew, he put his nation ahead of a pagan land like Assyria, which, by the way, had already begun oppressing Israel. It would only be 2-3 decades before Assyria would destroy Israel. So, Jonah's strong sense of nationalism is easy for us to understand.
Jonah would have also embraced a bias that the message of salvation was only for the Jews. He would not naturally have considered that God's love extended to the pagans from another land. And he certainly couldn't see himself traveling from the Mediterranean Sea near Egypt to Nineveh, located in what is today southwestern Iran. That's a long way to go.
If the book of Jonah teaches us anything, it's that we need to value what God values, or rather, who God values. He doesn't value just those who look and dress like ourselves. He values people who are very different from us, who come from different backgrounds and cultures, who believe differently than we do, and who are from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
Here is a question for all of us: Who do we value?
A second question: Does it show?