A Lesson From Jonah for Christians to Mind Their Anger In Troubled Times

REV. MARK H. CREECH
REV. MARK H. CREECH

The story of Jonah is one of the most meaningful texts in the Bible for me. It tells not only of the great miracle of a man being swallowed by a great fish and living to tell about it, but it also serves to remind us of the attitudes we should possess when representing the Lord to those who reject Him and His ways.

Jonah was called by God to preach to the people of Nineveh. He didn’t want to obey God at first. The reluctant prophet rebelled against God and got as far away from His will as he could get on a ship. His resistance would only prove to be futile. God sent a great storm to intercept the ship, which resulted in Jonah being thrown overboard by the crew. Jonah would have been lost at sea, except that God sent a great fish to swallow him up, actually saving his life and providing him passage in the right direction toward Nineveh.

Having been provided with another chance, Jonah obeyed God. He preached to Nineveh and the Bible says the whole city repented and was spared. You would think that would have made Jonah rejoice. Instead, he was angry and upset because Nineveh had been the oppressors of his own beloved people. He must have preached with incredible hubris and enthusiasm as he pronounced judgment, glorying in the hope that the Ninevites would get what’s coming to them.

I suggest many Christians today are afflicted with anger.

Decade by decade, year by year, day by day, we’ve seen politicians, celebrities, a liberal and biased press, destroy the blessed country they love from within. More than 56 million babies have been aborted and their body parts horrifically harvested and sold. The courts tyrannically overrule the will of the people on marriage, imposing their own will on the Constitution and writing law from the bench. Christian people are heavily fined and even jailed in this country now for living out their faith.

It’s infuriating!

Anger seems to be much of the appeal for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Hundreds of thousands of Evangelicals have gotten on board with him, perhaps much in part, because he vents their deepest frustrations. He’s the bulldog many say in their hearts, if not with their mouths, “Sick’em Donald, sick’em.”

Still, the Scriptures warn us, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

Aristotle said, “It is easy to fly into passion — anybody can do that — but to be angry with the right person to the right extent and at the right time and with the right object and in the right way — that is not easy, and it’s not everyone who can do it.”

Most of us can’t do it most of the time. However, Jesus did. He got angry, driving the buyers and sellers in the Temple out with a whip, overturning their money tables and calling them “a den of thieves”. So there is a place for righteous indignation, except holy anger is never self-serving. It’s always uniquely based in a zeal and love for God’s honor.

William Barclay has written, “The world would be a poorer place without those who blazed against the abuses and the tyrannies of sin. But too often this is made an excuse for petulant and self-centered irritation.”

The Gospel of Mark says that when Jesus was harshly criticized by the religious leaders for healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus looked “on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5). In other words, he looked on them with anger, not a spiteful or revengeful anger, but that of indignation coupled with compassion for the offenders.

God wanted Jonah to preach judgment to the Ninevites. He wanted him to take a bold stand, but he also wanted that stand to be possessed of compassion. God prepared to show Jonah this lesson.

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc.