“Then the sailors became extremely frightened and they said to Jonah, ‘How could you do this?’ For the men knew that Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the Lord….” (Jonah 1:10)
We don’t usually jump on ships and head to the utter reaches of the earth. We don’t generally stand in defiance or board planes in the opposite direction. We don’t practice blatant disobedience or open rebellion. It’s much more subtle and much more gradual than that. And therein lies a great danger.
It’s obvious that the Church faces enormous challenges in our day.
In the 1950s, the Church held a place of honor in society. In the 1960s, its institutional structures were challenged and people wanted something more. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Church became embroiled in “the culture wars” as it faced increasing hostility and loss of influence. In the 1990s and 2000s, the the Church lost both its majority and its authority in culture. And now we face political, legal, and social opposition like never before.
But the greatest challenge we face is not measured by external factors (like political lobbying or protests) but by internal factors (the hearts of God’s people not fully aligned with the heart of God).
When we fail to walk in the Presence of Christ and model the Presence of Christ, we have little to sustain us and even less to offer to others. Without the living Lord guiding us, comforting us, encouraging us, and empowering us, we have nothing but self-effort, memories, or traditions to hold onto.
Contrary to what we may hear from the fear-mongerers among us, our greatest threat is not the Ninevites of our day … but our own failure to walk closely with Jesus.
Jonah shocks us, because who in their right mind would attempt to outrun God? Surely none of us. But perhaps we have simply neglected His Presence. Complacency and apathy have crept up behind us, folded us in their arms, whispered for us to remain silent and still, and encouraged us to blend in and be careful.
And we’ve listened. In essence, we’ve boarded the ship with Jonah.
Might there come a day when those around us will cry out against us, “How could you do this?” In the midst of life’s great storms, people intuitively and innately know to reach beyond themselves. And in those moments they will look to us with earnestness and desperation hoping that we are walking closely with God, not drifting aimlessly from Him.
What will they see in us today?