But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god; and they threw the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down in the inner part of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him,
“What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish.”
Last we left Jonah he was boarding the first boat that came his way and sailed in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. Today, we join him on that boat. It’s not a good place to be, this boat, even if you aren’t one prone to sea-sickness. Jonah’s troubles have followed him, they rage against him, and now they rage around the other members of the ship, too.
But Jonah, he handles it really well! He decides he’s going to sleep. You know if you ignore something, it’s going to work out in the end. Rock. Solid. Plan, Jonah.
See, I can say this, because I’ve been there. That time I go to open my mouth about someone I know. I feel the little nudge inside to close my mouth before its too late, but I don’t. I plunge forward and my tongue flaps and I’ve said something I shouldn’t. Usually about another person. It could be calumny. Or gossip. But whatever the specificities isn’t important in this instance because I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. Jonah? He was supposed to say something. And my response to sin? It’s usually like Jonah’s.
I go to sleep. I pretend it didn’t happen. I pretend I didn’t know it was gossip (or it’s cousin, calumny), and I just continue on my merry way. I ignore the twinge of guilt and pretend there is nothing wrong. Pretending I shouldn’t be on my knees, head bowed, and in the confessional.
And when that happens, when I ignore the effect of that sin on my own life I am also ignoring the wedge I’ve put in someone else’s life. Because sin is communal.
The storm that is tossing this ship isn’t going to harm Jonah only. His sin has put others in danger, too. There is are no victimless sins. Neither are there any sins in which, “I am only hurting myself.”
Worse, it’s impossible to know the extent to which our sin will reach our neighbor. Maybe our sin will be just an annoyance to those around us, a scratch that needs to be itched. But it may be, as in the case of Jonah, the cause of such hardship that we are endangering the lives of those around us.
The Book of Jonah is now a book of irony: the messenger of God to the wicked has now become the wicked. And the men assumed to be wicked, now become the messenger of God to Jonah. So that while Jonah refuses to speak to the Ninevites, the pagan does not refuse to speak to Jonah.
“What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish.” (Jonah 1:6)
With God’s mercy comes an excruciating and painful awareness of our sin. Often, the tempests roll in.
What is our response? Is there anything that you are sleeping through, too afraid to face waves right now?
Is God attempting to wake you up, perhaps even by someone who is not aware he is a messenger of God? What will be your response?