“God cares how we believers relate to and treat people who are deeply different from us. . . . God wants us to treat people of different races and faiths in a way that is respectful, loving, generous, and just.”- Timothy Keller
Then the captain of the mariners came to [Jonah] and said, ‘How can you be sleeping? Arise, call out to your god. Perhaps the god will favor us, that we may not perish.”- Jonah 1:6
In Chapter 3 (“Who is My Neighbor?”) of The Prodigal Prophet, Timothy Keller states that twice Jonah finds himself in a close encounter with people whose race and religion differ from his. Above all, Pastor Keller points out, Jonah displays dismissive and unhelpful behavior in both cases. In contrast, the pagan sailors uniformly act more admirably than Jonah.
Because Jonah detested talking to the pagans of Nineveh about God, he rejected God’s call and fled. Only to find himself talking to pagan sailors about God. However, when the uniquely terrifying tempest began, Jonah slept soundly in the ship’s hold. Sleeping what Scottish minister Hugh Martin (1822-1895) called the ‘sleep of sorrow.’ The desire to escape reality – if only just for a little while.
In addition, this serves as one of several laid-out contrasts between the despised sailors and the morally responsible Jonah. For example, the sailors are:
- each praying to their own god; Jonah, however, fails to pray to his God.
- spiritually aware enough to sense the storm isn’t random, but of peculiar intensity.
- astute enough to recognize the divine origin of the tempest.
- not narrow and bigoted, thus open to calling on Jonah’s God.
In conclusion, Pastor Keller notes, when the captain finds the sleeping prophet, he tells him to arise (Hebrew – qum lek). God also told Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh. So, in a bit of irony, God sent Jonah, His prophet, to point the pagans to Himself. Yet here we find the pagans pointing the prophet toward God!
Today’s question: How do you relate to people who are deeply different? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: the August Short Meditation, “A more profound Alleluia!”