The biblical story of Jonah speaks to the nationalism, xenophobia and racism prevalent in America today, and Christians should be “uncomfortable” identifying with either political party, Tim Keller argued.
During a recent interview with The Gospel Coalition, Keller, author and founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, discussed his new book, The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy.
Keller said he has preached on Jonah multiple times over the years, with the application of the message changing from time to time. The first time he preached on Jonah, it was in Virginia during the 1970’s where he applied the story to race relations.
The second time he preached on Jonah was in 2001 at the Manhattan-based Redeemer Presbyterian: “It was completely different,” he said. “Here we’re talking about the danger of turning around saying, ‘Oh, these Muslims are horrible people.’ It was a different kind of danger; it wasn’t white and black, it was America versus these awful terrorists.”
“It was not easy to preach about that, because what happened in New York was awful … we had people who were going to our church who were killed,” he said.
The book of Jonah speaks to the social climate today because it talks about politics, identity, and treating those who are racially and religiously different with respect, Keller contended.
“You could say that Jonah was putting his own national interest, the interest of Israel, over the spiritual good of the people of Ninevah,” he explained. “He knew that if Ninevah was destroyed by God, then that would make Israel safer…he was putting his nation over the spiritual good of these people.”
The book of Jonah clearly reveals that “God actually cares about all races and all people, and in the end, His Church will consist of people from every tribe, people, and nation,” Keller said. “We can’t just lift up one nation over other nations.”
While some nations are clearly “better” than other nations, our commitment to Christ “relativizes” that fact, Keller argued.
“I’m a Christian first, but I’m American second. I’m a Christian first, and I’m white second. If that’s not true, then you need to read the book of Jonah because that’s part of what it’s trying to say,” he said, pointing out that “every time Jonah is near the pagans, the pagans look better than Jonah does.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett