“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Now, we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
So, when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:1-5 NIV).
The Sin of Jonah
Imagine, for a moment, that you are Jonah, a prophet from Isreal, who has been given the unpleasant task of preaching repentance in the capital city of the sworn enemies of your people. That wouldn’t be so bad if you were supposed to announce judgment and maybe even be allowed to bring fire and brimestone down upon your enemies and destroy them completely before they have an opportunity to invade your country and destroy your people. How sweet would that be?
But, no. God told you to preach repentance to your enemies and to add insult to injury, He let you know beforehand that they would repent and would be spared. What’s the point? Why would God be so patient with people who were so evil? I thought He was on our side. What’s going on here?
So there you sit, outside of the city walls (just in case) under a small tree trying to stay out of the heat of the midday sun. You did your job. Maybe without a lot of enthusiasm but what did you expect? You tried to run away in the opposite direction but that was futile. God sent a storm. You were thrown overboard at your own request knowing that God was after you and it wasn’t fair to condemn innocent men because of your sin. And then there was the whale. What an terrible, distasteful journey that was. But you deserved no less. God would not be denied. But that didn’t mean you had to like it.
So you did your job. You preached repentance. You let the people of Nineveh know that if they didn’t repent, God would destroy them. You didn’t try to persuade them. Your oratory wasn’t exemplary nor inspired. You simply told them the truth. You did your job.
Maybe because they knew you were Jewish and that you more than hoped they wouldn’t repent, they took you more seriously. Maybe it was the fact that you were their enemy but still preached repentance and not just judgment. Whatever the case, the city repented and God’s judgment did not come upon them. Darn.
And then there was this darned fig tree that withered away right during the hottest part of the day. Nothing was going right. You complain to God bitterly about your own comfort but God wasn’t playing ball. Instead of making you more comfortable, God rebukes you for your hard heart, because you made your comfort and a stupid fig tree more important than a city full of people who were in danger of the righteous judgment of God.
That is the sin of Jonah. A hard-hearted, judgmental attitude toward others who were not like you while, at the same time, thinking you had some sort of special dispensation from God that allowed you to act with arrogance towards everybody else.
Sorry. That isn’t going to wash with God. The sin of Jonah is a serious problem among the Jews especially in Jesus’ day. Don’t forget what we said about the context for Paul’s letter. Between the Judaizers on the one hand (Jewish Christians who insisted every Gentile had to become a Jew first to become a Christian) and non-believing Jews who wanted to eradicate this new sect, things were not easy for the Gentile Christians in Rome. Paul wasn’t just trying to make peace. He was setting the record straight and calling sin what it was and the Sin of Jonah was a big problem in the early church (and to some degree in every church).
If you are one of those judgmental types of Christians who still don’t understand that we live by faith and are under no condemnation and you still think that walking in the Spirit is all about morality instead of relationship, then you are commiting the Sin of Jonah and these words of Paul are for you as well. Take note. It is an easy sin to fall into for all of us at one point or another. More often than not we are willing to throw our brother or sister “under the bus” at the first sign of a problem or moral sin instead of valuing the relationship more than the sin and finding a way to forgive and reconcile. After all, “love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8 NIV).
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, I find it easy to focus on the sin and the morality even though I know that I have the same weakness in me. Maybe it’s a different type of sin but it comes from the same source and condemns me the same as everyone else. Teach me humility and teach me to value the spiritual unity with my brother and sister above all. After all, you have already given us the solution to the problem of sin and evil within and we only need to apply it in each situation. But often, we don’t. We hold grudges. We gossip and slander and talk down the other person when they aren’t around. Forgive us, Lord, for the sin of Jonah and for our hard hearts. In your name I pray. Amen.