There's something remarkable about the prophet Jonah, and it's this: he didn't want to go to Nineveh.
You might be thinking to yourself, "duh." That's kind of the point of the entire story. The sinful prophet doesn't want to do what God tells him to do, so he ends up in a giant fish and then in a pile of guts until he finally decides to go and do what God told him to do in the first place. Most of us read the story and don't think a second thought about many of the details. But read it again. Jonah doesn't want to go to Nineveh.
God gives Jonah the very assignment that you'd think most Christians want - that is, you'd think that's what they want if you have paid any attention to preaching over the past few generations or to Christians on social media these days. God tells Jonah, "Go to Nineveh and tell them they are wrong."
Oh, the joy!
This is exactly what most of us want to do, it seems. We love telling other persons why they're wrong. It doesn't even have to be about God. We just love explaining why we're right and they're wrong. Or worse, just jumping on some bandwagon of whatever is considered to be truth these days and hammering all dissenters into the ground. We love telling others how stupid they are, how backward they are, how their ignorance is their burden to bear. We love telling them that they're going to Hell and that God is upset with them for choices they are making or things they are doing or hey, even situations that they find themselves in through absolutely not fault of their own.
We are a people who just love telling others they are wrong and condemning them. In Christian circles, we say that we do this because we have the truth and we know a better way, but let's be honest - if we really do know another way, we aren't showing it by the way that we're proclaiming it.
So you'd think that when God tells Jonah to go and tell these people they are wrong, if he was anything like us, he'd be all for it. He'd be rubbing his hands together and whispering to himself, "Finally." Finally, God is going to turn me loose on these peoples and let me tell them what's what. Finally, I'm going to get to show all of my understanding and wisdom and put these peoples in their place. Finally, God's calling me to do something I'm good at and something I can't wait to do.
But Jonah isn't like us. And actually, we're more like Jonah than we want to admit.
The church seems to have taken this up as our mantle for several generations now, this preaching of fire and brimstone and arrogant superiority, but the truth, I think....is that if God came down right now and asked us to go and tell the peoples they are wrong, most of us would be running for Tarshish.
Most of us would turn and run the other direction. Most of us would say, uhm, no thanks, God. Not really my thing. Most of us would immediately start to hem and to haw and to make excuses and plans to get us out of it. If God came right now and gave us the absolute message of truth and grace and love and told us to start by condemning someone else, most of us wouldn't want to do it.
Strange, right? We'll do it all on our own - for free, even! - but if it were God's idea, most of us would at least hesitate. Most of us would turn and run. Most of us would decide that proclaiming such a truth was not right for us.
This should at least give us pause, shouldn't it? I mean, if proclaiming God's truth doesn't seem right for us, then what exactly are we proclaiming right now in our own power?