As we go through life, there are people who are involved in storms all around us. What is our responsibility as followers of Jesus toward these people?
I sometimes think that Christians have such a difficult time these days bringing other people to Christ because we are asleep as they battle the storms of life. As they face the destruction of their lives, they look at our prayer meetings and Bible studies and wonder, “I thought you were a Christian. How can you be doing nothing at a time like this?”
When our neighbors or co-workers are going through the storms of life, are we taking the opportunity to minister to them and reveal to them the power of the God you serve, or are we, like Jonah, asleep in the hull of the ship?
Jonah’s Muddled Theology
When Jonah is given the chance to share some truth about Yahweh with the sailors, the only thing he gives them is some muddled and misleading theology. They ask what they can do to calm the storm, and Jonah doesn’t pray or tell them to pray to God. He doesn’t confess his sin. He doesn’t repent. He doesn’t even tell them to turn the boat around and head back toward Israel.
Instead, he tells them to throw him into the sea, which they would have interpreted as offering a human sacrifice to the god of the sea.
I believe Jonah knew what he was saying and how the sailors would have interpreted it, but he didn’t care that they would end up believing bad theology.
Because he didn’t care for the sailors. He didn’t really care if they drowned or not, and even if they lived, he didn’t really care if they worshiped Yahweh properly or not. Yahweh was his God; not theirs. It only mattered that he knew the truth.
Since Jonah did not care about the sailors, he didn’t care about their theology either.
But caring for people is the first step in caring for their theology.
Christian Muddled Theology
I fear that many churches and Christians do not realize the horrible, muddled theology we teach to people in our neighborhoods, at our jobs, and even in our families because deep down inside, we do not really care about the people themselves.
We say “God loves you” but then with our actions we tell them that God will only love them if they come to our church, follow our dress code, stop going to those parties and saying those words, and get rid of that behavior.
Is that the message we really intend to portray? The God will only love them if they follow our rules and do what we think is best?
Like a groggy-eyed Jonah waking up from a nap in the dark hull of a boat and giving incoherent answers to questions from desperate sailors caught in a life-threatening storm, we step out of our churches still tingling from the goose-bump worship experience, and give incoherent answers to our neighbors about the problems with their marriage, their wayward pregnant daughter, their drug-abusing son, and what God wants from them to fix it all.
But none of it is true.
We give bad theology and bad ideas because we never took the time to actually get to know the people in the storms of life and what they are struggling with. We never took the time to show them the infinite love and forgiveness of God which God has shown us.