Wed | Oct 16, 2019

Dealing with the ‘Jonah’ syndrome in church

Published:Saturday | March 9, 2019 | 12:06 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer

I can’t believe the God of Earth and glory

Would take the time to care for one like me

But I read in the Bible that old story

How He pled for my forgiveness while He was dying on a tree

The Crabb Family – Please Forgive Me

Jonah was sent on a mission to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, but he didn’t want to go, and so, he went instead on a ship. We all know the story of how he was exposed and thrown overboard, with a whale swallowing him and spitting him out after three days.

In the end, he preached the message of salvation and the Ninevites repented, which angered Jonah.

It causes one to wonder as to why a preacher would be upset that souls are being saved.

For answers, Family and Religion reached out to counsellor and motivational speaker Paul Blake, who admitted that in today’s world, Christians are still possessed with the ‘Jonah spirit’ and are upset when some sinners are forgiven by God.

“The Jonah mentality can be pervasive among Christians. Jonah questioned God’s motives for offering forgiveness to a people that he considered to be unworthy. He wished instead that God had given him a message of judgment and destruction because of the people’s countless sins and constant rejection of God,” pointed out Blake.

He said Jonah got to the point of becoming upset with God when God impressed upon him that His grace was far-reaching and that it was within His purview to offer pardon and mercy to whomever He chose.

“Christians today would be quick to condemn Jonah for his unforgiving attitude, but the million-dollar question is: are we any different from Jonah in our attitudes of condemnation to those we believe are undeserving of God’s grace and mercy?” Blake asked.

He said that sometimes the attitudes of Christians towards those who they should be focused on saving leave much to be desired. Too many times, he said, Christians forget that they, too, were once in the same position – and sometimes even worse off than the ones they are choosing to look down on.

Blake said that the choice of whom deserves God’s grace is not for us to decide, but it is all up to God, who is the author of salvation.

“Sin is not placed in categories. All unrepented sin will receive just punishment. If this truth is accepted, it must therefore be taken that all sins can be forgiven if there is genuine repentance. It means that the attitude of Christians towards those considered irredeemable because of what they have done in their past lives is against everything that Christ would stand for,” Blake shared.

For him, if God is willing to forgive when the unrighteous turn to Him, why shouldn’t Christians do the same? Pointing out that the Church is God’s spiritual place of refuge (or should be), Blake said everyone within its walls deserves its full protection from the elements that seek to destroy the soul.

“Nobody, no matter what they have done, is outside of God’s grace; the Church will forever be God’s hospital for the sin-sick soul. The Church ought to be that place where the vilest of sinners can access an abundance of grace, mercy and forgiveness,” he said, acknowledging that unfortunately, that is not always the case as too many believers are possessed with the ‘Jonah attitude’.

According to Blake, Christians sometimes make the Church a miserable place for others because they have forgotten the words of Jesus Christ in Luke 12: 48: “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask for more.”

Blake added that if Christians would only take the time to consider their own lives before they embraced Christ, they would not be so hasty to play judge and jury to other people’s sins.

“The best way to show the world that we belong to God is to let the beauty of Jesus Christ be seen in us by how we respond to the lost. Whenever we feel like behaving like Jonah, it would do us well to remember that we have little control over God’s response to what He has created. In the end, we are all sinners desperately in need of His grace, love, mercy and forgiveness”, Blake said.