The Jonah Syndrome is not new. It is a heart disorder that seems to be highly contagious. And it is spreading at an alarming rate! You may be suffering from it. We will look at the symptoms as well as the cure.
The Jonah Syndrome
First, this post is addressed specifically to believers, those who are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are the only ones who can contract this disorder. And the great chasms dividing today’s culture tell us there are problems to address. But are those chasms the problem or might they be symptoms of the Jonah Syndrome?
We associate a ‘whale’ with the prophet Jonah. But the great fish was just God’s delivery vehicle to get His obstinate servant to a Divinely appointed preaching engagement. That problem also exists today. We will get to that.
First, let’s get a historical perspective. Great writers and thinkers pass their wisdom on to us. In this case, Jonathan Swift comes to mind. He was a poet, satirist and author. And if you were blessed with real education you were required to read some great works of the past. Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels. But he wrote a great deal more. For instance:
We are God’s chosen few, All others will be damned;
There is no place in heaven for you, We can’t have heaven crammed.
That bit of satire was aimed at Christians. It seems Jonathan Swift had observed what I’m calling the Jonah Syndrome. And that wasn’t the only thing he said:
We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
Swift was commenting on hearts that are not aligned with the Savior’s heart. That is the essence and origin of the Jonah Sydrome. And we are not guessing. We have direct evidence!
Jonah preached God’s message of repentance. And the people of Ninevah repented. A massive, positive response to the message should bring joy to the heart of the preacher, right? Well, not Jonah. Notice Jonah 4:2-3. It seems Jonah learned obedience in the belly of the whale but he didn’t learn about loving others.
Jonah was actually angry that God’s righteous judgment had not been poured out on Ninevah and its inhabitants. This is the real lesson we should learn from the life of Jonah. Our heart must reflect the Savior’s heart. But does it?
Jonah Syndrome – Red And Blue
It’s time for full disclosure or a warning to the super-sensitive. Allow me to use an old southern phrase:
The preacher has done gone to meddlin’.
Remember the cultural divides I mentioned early on? How do we regard the other side? It seems pretty obvious that Swift was exactly right. No matter which side one may be on, there’s enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love our neighbor. The red side holds the blue side in contempt and vice versa. And just to be clear, there is plenty of lying and corruption in our society. Godly citizens should call it out and demand corrective action. Past that, let’s look at another aspect.
Are there believers on the other side? How about non-believers? And what should be the greatest concern of every believer? General answer: Being salt and light in a dark world. We must engage the culture to effictively declare the Gospel. But engaging culture must stop short of adopting the culture’s mindset and methods! We cannot lift others out of the gutter if we are in it with them. Now, let me propose a test.
What if we had another Great Awakening? What if the Lord sent His Spirit in power across this nation and thousands came to faith in Christ? All of us should be praying for that. And if it happened we should be exuberant. But I am afraid some would complain to God – just like Jonah. Why would they do this?
The human heart is deceitful above all things (see Jeremiah 17:9). And sinful hearts try to hold hands with both sides of a problem. For example… Would a great revival be a good thing? Absolutely! Why? Because if all those people on the other side got right with God they would agree with me. That’s toungue-in-cheek, but painful. So here’s a little test. No essay questions or multiple choice. It’s a good old True/False test:
I am very concerned about the deep divisions in our society. T F
More people on the ‘right’ side of the issues would solve our problems. T F
Too many on both sides have no personal relationship with God. T F
The previous statement causes me great concern. T F
I want people to be forgiven more than I want them to agree with me. T F
Five easy questions. Everybody should answer T on the first question. A great many folks would answer question #2 with a T. That’s unfortunate, but it’s the way things are. More on that after the evaluation. The answer to questions 3 and 4 should be a very obvious T. Do I really need to explain that? And question 5 is the challenge. We all know we are supposed to say: T. But do we really mean it or are we suffering from that deceitful heart thing noted by Jeremiah?
It is possible (and easy!) for us to decieve ourselves. Scripture addresses that problem in James 1:22 as well as I John 1:8. So a good evaluation must include a heart check. Now, let me provide you with an unconventional, but effective, test for your heart.
My question for this acid test needs two polarizing figures. One is hated by the red side and the other is hated by the blue side. Your task: complete the question with the figure hated by your side…
Eternity/heaven will be great even if (President Trump) (Speaker Pelosi) is there. T F
Jonah Syndrome – Prescription
That puts Jonah’s complaint in perspective. He hated the people of Ninevah just like people today love to hate the other side. Jonah would just as soon have seen all of them suffer judgment in hell than have them forgiven by God. And that is in stark contrat to the Father’s heart as we see in 2 Peter 3:9 – :
God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
And that shows us the real problem. Remember question 2? The political divide is not our problem. It is a symptom of a great spiritual divide And if the truth is fully stated, we Christians need to apologize to our nation for not doing our job as Salt and Light. The prescription is an ancient one. Notice Joel 2:12-14 –
‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.’ So rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the LORD your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion. And He relents from sending disaster. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him—grain and drink offerings for the LORD your God.
You may recall these posts: Share Project and Illusions: Share Project Video. The Share Project wasn’t started because there is a shortage of things to do! What I have tried to communicate in this post (and the posts leading up to the Share Project videos) is the necessity of action. It starts in the heart. We need to be about the Father’s business. Is it easy? No. But recovering from complacency is never easy.
And just so you know, that first Share Project video is being remade. In addition to that, another Share Project video will be finished this week. Why? So you, and you, and you can share them. These videos are being made so you don’t have worry about what to say to someone or how to say it. Sharing couldn’t be easier. But two things are still required:
- Desire to act
- Hitting the send button
Maybe the best test for the Jonah Syndrome is the few seconds it will take to copy one or both of those video links and share them. It’s your turn… BUT, don’t forget! Your Father can still get hesitant messengers to their appointed rounds. Skip the fish and get on with it!
Soli Deo Gloria!