This is a guest post from Deena Guirguis - a graduate student seeking her Masters of Social Work from Catholic University in Washington, DC and a proud member of St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church in Arlington, VA. You can follow her on twitter, @deenagee. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Years ago, I read the Old Testament book of Jonah and decided that I didn’t really like Jonah very much. Whenever I say that out loud, I imagine myself getting to Heaven and running into Jonah as he stands with his hands crossed, head shaking, waiting for an explanation. This week, I got to thinking about what I would say in response. Why am I so quick to discount him?
Every Sunday School teacher will tell you that Jonah’s main struggle - the reason the Ninevites were almost destroyed - is because he was disobedient. Obedience is not my struggle. When God asks me to do difficult things, I do them. Now, never mind that when I do them I am worried, afraid, doubtful, begrudging and searching for every way to justify cutting corners and that those things are just as sinful. But in the end, I obey. And Jonah didn't.
And that makes it easy for me to look down on Jonah; because his sin is different than mine.
As human beings, we tend to defend ourselves and judge others. That’s not only hurtful to others, it’s damaging to us. It’s fake security. We convince ourselves that as long as someone else is struggling where we’re not, we don’t need to do the hard work of cleaning out our own closets. We can ignore our own mess and take our seat behind the gavel.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about building community and what that means (thanks to our #reFriending series at STSA). The lesson I’ve learned is that in order to get close to people, we need to bare ourselves. We need to look at our own lives and see what’s out of order. We need to stop judging and start understanding. Yes, Jonah disobeyed. But behind that, Jonah was scared. He was angry. And he made an impulsive decision based on heightened emotions.
Is he the only one???
The details of Jonah’s story are different than the details of yours or mine. But ultimately, the heart is the same: me, you, Jonah and everybody else on this planet…we’re all sinners. We’re all in the same boat.
Believe it or not there’s comfort in that – because sinners are exactly the people Jesus came to spend time with. Jesus sat at the table and broke bread with sinners all the time – tax collectors, prostitutes, liars, thieves… they became His friends. They confessed their sins, opened their hearts and found that they didn’t need to be afraid anymore. They came face to face with the meaning of this verse:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
I believe that can still exist today, but we have to first be willing to change the way we share and connect with others. We are children of a God who wants more for us than what we've settled for. He wants us to build each other up, to support each other and to bear one another’s burdens. It’s no longer ‘me’ versus ‘them’. It’s all of us, together, swimming in God’s grace - and making friends with other swimmers along the way.
For discussion: what would be the effect on your life if were able to look at others the same way God does?