3 Things to be Aware of When God is Being Unreasonable
Every day you have a choice to follow what God says is best or to go your own way. Most of what He asks of us is reasonable, helpful, and makes the world a better place. But what about those unreasonable things? Those things that don’t seem fair or are much too difficult to give up? What about those relationships with the jerks in your life? What about that sin that really isn’t that big of a deal? What about the awkwardness of sharing the Good News? The first chapter of Jonah shows us the typical way we avoid obedience and spiral into the depths of a journey far for the will of God.
Like Jonah, our first reaction to something God commands us to do that is outside of our comfort zone is to rationalize our disobedience to God. We convince ourselves that we aren’t being disobedient, we aren’t saying “no” to God, we’re just using our reason to supersede God’s commands.
Jonah seems to straight up reject God, but given the historical context, I believe the way He got to “no” wasn’t by an obstinate refusal, but by a reasonable argument. Nineveh was nasty. If all Nineveh did was kill their enemies, they might be considered lovingly generous compared to what they were known for. Sacrificing babies, mutilating, humiliating, torturing, and oppressing their enemies was a joyous practice for them… and Jonah’s people (Israel) were Nineveh’s enemies.
The reason Jonah ran in the opposite direction of his calling was because God was being unreasonable. Talking to “those people” would both put Jonah at risk and would give them a chance to respond to God and be saved. Seriously! Jonah has every reason to rationalize His behavior to God: The Ninevites are wicked people that are ruining His creation and their destruction would make the world a much better place. Makes sense… so Jonah runs.
In the same way, our direct disobedience to God not usually a straight up rejection, but a rationalization of our behavior to God. “I shouldn’t treat my spouse that way, she hasn’t given me the respect I deserve.” “I need to look at this to fulfill my needs.” “My co-worker is a jerk. I’m not going to share Jesus with her.” Each rationalization says, “Listen God, I know what you think you want, but I know better, and here’s why…”
For you, what has God commanded that you are refusing to do (or stop doing) because you’ve rationalized your disobedience?
God, in His infinite knowledge isn’t convinced of Jonah’s rationalization. He knows better, loves better, and continues to pursue Jonah to accomplish His plan. Jonah’s next reaction is a mirror to our own lives as well. After we’ve tried to convince ourselves, and God, that we know better, our soul won’t settle, so we move to try to ignore the nagging weight of disobedience. Jonah goes into the hull of the ship to sleep, ignoring both the calling he’s been given and the raging storm his rationalization is causing. The irony of Jonah’s story is that an unbeliever has to stir him to pay attention to God. In the same way, after we’ve moved passed rationalization, we move to ignore our calling all together. We try to put it out of our mind, keep busy with other things, or we sometimes focus our attention on other “godly things” to make up for the things we are ignoring.
For you, what aspects of God’s Word, will, and way are you ignoring? Where do you tell yourself that you don’t need to pay attention to “that area of your life” to follow Jesus?
The storm gets so bad that heroically Jonah commands the other sailors to throw him overboard so that their lives are spared… NOT! Maybe you’ve been taught that Jonah’s sacrifice is the beginning of his obedience to God, but that’s not what is happening. Jonah’s disobedience has moved past rationalization, he can’t ignore it anymore, so he now becomes completely irrational in his disobedience to God. “Throw me overboard,” is basically saying, “I’d rather die than do what God asked me to do.” Think about it, Jonah could have said, “Turn the ship around and take me back, I’ve got something I need to do.” Instead he says, “kill me.” Our sin, if not submitted to God, poisons us with a conviction that we’d rather suffer or die then be obedient to our calling.
For you, is there anything that God asked you or commanded you to do that you’ve committed to irrationally reject?
What To Do To Keep From Spiraling
So how do you keep from spiraling into rationalization, ignorance, and irrationality?
First, you must practice daily dying to yourself. Each of these aspects is feed with self-reliance, self-strength and self-wisdom. Through daily re-centering your life on God-reliance, God’s strength, and Godly wisdom you will begin to cultivate a heart that is unabandoned to obedience.
Second, surrounding yourself with an intimate, Christian community, FULL of grace and truth, is so important. I wonder how Jonah would have reacted if he had brothers and sisters around him that helped him see things from a Godly perspective and live obediently.