Reflection on Jonah: Made of the Same Stuff

Reflection on Jonah: Made of the Same Stuff

Humility is the key to ethical Christian actions. Jonah’s view of himself was the core of every one of his stumbles in following God. When Jonah ran from God did he actually think he could get away from God? He may have; however, God brought him to a place where all he could say was “Salvation belongs to the Lord!”[1]. When Jonah got angry with God that the city was not destroyed, what was the reason: pride. That hubris is what wells up in a man and is at the center of all rebellion. The counter to that human pride is humility: “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”[2] Killing pride is the direct course to walking in Biblical ethics: Jonah’s faith and actions were separated by pride; pride is the enemy of every man and walking in humility is the example Christ left for Christian leaders to combat pride; providentially God is faithful to correct and shape the Christian into a humble follower just as he did with Jonah.

 

Jonah’s Faith and Actions

I will show you my faith by my works, James said.[3]  Jonah did show exactly what he believed by what he did. However, what he showed was contrary to the faith that he professed. Jonah hears from the Lord, then gets on a boat going the opposite direction.[4] Jonah knew the Lord could part the sea and do any and all things; yet, he ran. The disconnect in Jonah is only displayed in the action, it exists in the heart. Michael Milco sheds a little light here when he quotes Walter Elwell saying, “The enduring marks of biblical ethics are its foundation … relationship with God …”[5] Jonah demonstrates he knew of God, but he did not know God. He further demonstrates this at the end of the story. Instead of exulting in God’s mercy, Jonah blames God’s mercy for why he fled in the first place.[6] Jonah cared more for his reputation than for mercy and God’s plan.

 

The Christian’s Call to Love God and Neighbor

 Paul’s theology of two natures, flesh, and spirit, old and new creation, run throughout his works. Paul even accuses himself of often being under the control of this sin, flesh, nature.[7] The great worker in this human nature is pride, all other sins stem from some form of pride; just as Jonah’s actions did. The great enemy of pride is humility. Nevertheless, it is not enough to just be humble, for there is enough hubris in man to be prideful about how humble he is. True humility is to seek the foundation of all right action “… relationship with God …” [8] through loving him and others.[9] The cost of not keeping this first commandment is threefold. First, a relationship with God relies on the humility that comes from truly loving God: no love, no relationship; no relationship, no victory over sin. The second cost is in ministry itself; Jonah received no gratification from seeing his proclamation save 120,000 people from destruction.[10] Jonah was miserable because he had no love. Third, the most dangerous cost is to the ministers’ entrance into heaven. It would be a sad fate to get to heaven after a lifelong toil only to be called loveless.

 

Jonah’s Ethical Development through Struggle and Triumph

 The lovelessness of Jonah has been forefront so far. However, God was working in Jonah just as he was working in Nineveh. It was no accident that a great fish was ready to take Jonah on a three day underwater excursion. In that fish, Jonah was granted the grace to grow in humility. Milco’s decision-making tower indicates that Jonah was reevaluating just where his values, principles and loyalties[11] were in light of being in the fish.

 

Shaping of Personal Ethics and the Role of God

 When speaking of how Christians think about ethical development, Stanley Grenz said “Ethics is the study of how human ought to live as informed by the Bible and Christian convictions”[12] As a young man I was an accomplished thief and liar. I could steal anything and make up any sorry to cover it. I had a good memory so I would always remember what I said. I was prisoner to sin; selfishness is the worst form of pride. However, the Lord was merciful and I started to be caught in my actions. God’s role in all this was first to give me a Bible and tell me of what Jesus did; then, He guided my life so that like Jonah I had a choice, live in my sin prison or repented and seek relationship with Him.

 

Significant Ethical Principles Gleaned from the Book of Jonah

 Jonah’s contribution to Christian ethics is first and foremost seeing what walking without the Holy Spirit looks like. The statement on Pentecostal ministry and ordination says “the necessity of a spiritual endowment for ministry is apparent in Jesus and the apostles.”.[13] Without this Holy Spirit empowerment there will never be an ethical walk. The next ethical in Jonah is relationship. It is not enough to know of God, a ministry must also walk with God. Jonah’s goals were often out of step with God’s goals and this caused Jonah much pain and cost him a lot of peace.

 

Conclusion

 The most important thing to glean from Jonah is not directly stated in Jonah. Humans are all made of the same stuff as Jonah. This is a sobering statement. Walking in humility, by relationship, in love, is the only path for the minister to gain success. The death of pride is the course to ethics that are not based on fallible man but based on infallible God.

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[1]. Jonah 2:9, all citations are in ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2]. Micah 6:8.

[3]. James 2:18.

[4]. Jonah 1:3.

[5]. Michael R. Milco, Ethical dilemmas in church leadership: case studies in biblical decision making. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. 1997. 15

[6]. Jonah 4:1-4.

[7]. Romans 7:14-20.

[8]. Michael R. Milco, Ethical dilemmas in church leadership: case studies in biblical decision making. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. 1997. 15

[9]. John 14:15

[10]. Jonah 4:11

[11].  Michael R. Milco, Ethical dilemmas in church leadership: case studies in biblical decision making. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. 1997. 17. Figure 1.1.

[12]. Stanley J. Grenz, Moral quest: foundations of christian ethics. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2000. 23.

[13]. “PENTECOSTAL MINISTRY AND ORDINATION,” Assemblies of God (USA) Official Web Site, August 3, 2009, , accessed February 27, 2018, https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Pentecostal-Ministry-and-Ordination.

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Bibliography

“GCTS – Graduate Program Manual” GCTS – Graduate Program Manual. October 2017. Accessed February 27, 2018. http://www.gcumedia.com/lms-resources/student-success-center/documents/cot/GCTS-GraduateProgramManual-rev2017-10.pdf.

Grenz, Stanley J. Moral quest: foundations of christian ethics. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2000.

Milco, Michael R. Ethical dilemmas in church leadership: case studies in biblical decision making. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997.

“PENTECOSTAL MINISTRY AND ORDINATION.” Assemblies of God (USA) Official Web Site. August 3, 2009. Accessed February 27, 2018. https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Pentecostal-Ministry-and-Ordination.

 

 

Posted in Blog, Reflection.