Jonah 5 Children of Violence

Tonight I want to talk about violence and anger.

Sex Scandals - Harvey Winesteen - October - Explosion.

I don’t know how many of you have been keeping up with all the sex scandal stuff in the news. If you haven’t, God bless you, you’re probably happier than the rest of us.

But it kinda seems like it started with Harvey Winesteen, in October, but since then it seems like there’s just been an explosion.

  • Harvey Weinstein - Producer
  • Andy Signore - VP
  • Roy Price - TV Studio Head
  • Chris Savino - TV Show creator and showrunner
  • Robert Scoble - Tech Blogger
  • Lockhart Steele - Editorial Director
  • Josh Besh - CEO
  • James Toback - Director and Writer
  • Terry Richardson - Photographer
  • Leon Wieseltier - Editor
  • Knight Lanesman - Publusher
  • Rich Najera - Director
  • Mark Halperin - News Contributer
  • Ken Baker - News Correspondent
  • Ken Spacey - Actor
  • Hamilton Fish - Publisher
  • Michael Oreskes - Newspaper Editor
  • Andy Dick - Actor
  • Kirr Webster - Publicist
  • Brett Ratner - Producer and Director
  • Jeff Hover - Politician
  • David Guillod - CEO
  • Ed Westwick - Actor
  • Benjamin Genocchio - CEO
  • Roy Moore - Politician
  • Louis C.S. - Comedian
  • Andrew Kreisberg - Producer
  • Eddie Berganza - Editor
  • Steve Jurvetson - Venture Capitalist
  • Al Franken - Politician

So that's 30 in 42 days. - Spans : religion / political party / nationality / upbringing.

And this is just famous people. I was talking to Jesse McDermott who’s in the police academy and they up to 100 Domestic Violence calls PER DAY. Just Albuquerque. Every day.

And on one hand, I get a little conflicted internally. B/C on one hand I’m someone who has preached for a long time that God’s mercy is for both the oppressed and the oppressor, and on the other hand, I look at the faces of these men and I think ‘I really really hate you.’

And I think overall I think bringing things to the light is a good thing. But it’s made me look at myself and my response to this kind of stuff. And I hate it when the violence in the world becomes violence in my own heart. So again, violence and anger.

Jonah - Hits home.

Which brings us to Jonah.

And if I’m being honest, this is the message I’ve been waiting to give when it comes to Jonah, b/c it REALLY hits home with me.

Jonah 3:1-4:5

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: (Jonah 3:1)

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3:2)

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. (Jonah 3:3)

Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4)

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. (Jonah 3:5)

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. (Jonah 3:6)

This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. (Jonah 3:7)

But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. (Jonah 3:8)

Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 3:9)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:10)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. (Jonah 4:1)

He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Jonah 4:2)

Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3)

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. (Jonah 4:5)

Jonah has been called by God to go preach in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which is this great, rising, imperial world power.

And something not a lot of people know if that this in an incredibly violent place.

… Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land…

… Tiglath-Pilesar, king of Assyria, came…and deported the people…

… Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it

(2 Kings)

Invading is what happens when you raise an army and then march into another country and take it over using force and power and violence.

Deporting is what happens when you capture the inhabitants of said country you’ve invaded and forcibly remove them from their homes and jobs and towns and land and then take them far away.

Laying siege is what happens when you surround a city with your army and in doing this sever the city from its food and water sources so that so many people are starving and suffering and dying that eventually they give up and surrender.

Assyrians - mean. Nasty, brutish, violent, oppressive - made life miserable for Israelites. Year after year

Jonah’s response to their violence is anger. He wants them punished. And if you’ve ever been a victim of violence, or abuse, you understand that anger.

But God’s response is really surprising: God rejects the violence of Nineveh AND the poisonous anger of Jonah.

I want to talk about violence.

The Source of Violence, The Strategy against Violence, and the Ultimate Solution for violence.

2 Sources of Violence

In this story we encounter 2 sources of violence.

1. Moral Relativism (Assyrians)

So like I’ve said, Pegan isn’t just an insult, Peganism was a worldview. It was polytheistic.

And so it’s interesting to think about: Why were these old polytheistic cultures so violent? We even the best ones, think Greece and Rome. Their entertainment was gladiators - prisoners being eaten by Lions, and people cheered. Get this, in certain times in history, girl babies were just thrown out. And everybody accepted that. There’s absolutely ZERO care for the poor in these cultures.

So why were these people so violent?

St. Augustine talks about this, he says that if there’s one God, one supreme power then the world is essentially, originally a peaceful place. But if there’s LOTS of Gods, and they’re at war with each other, then the world is essentially, originally a violence place. And things like peace and justice are totally unnatural.


And you might be thinking ‘Well that’s an old, outdated worldview’. Not as outdated as you might think!

Let’s say you go to some liberal arts college. They’re gonna teach you that at the center of the universe is darwinian evolution. And at the center of that is what? “The Strong Eat the Weak.”

Sidenote: That’s NOT the same as Theistic Evolution - where Christians believe that God guided the whole process of simple life-forms to complex life-forms. So Darwinian evolution is the same thing: The Strong Eat the Weak. At the center of the world is violence.

Also, if there is no one God then there is no one truth. If there’s no single lawgiver, who get’s to decide what’s true?

“Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness .. is the proof of your moral integrity.” (Ayn Rand Relativist - Atlas Shrugged)

That’s so stupid that it makes me weak in the knees. The only moral purpose you have is your own happiness? There’s SHOULD be something in you that thinks that’s profoundly ridiculous.

But the relativist would say ‘Hey, that’s her truth.’ - Yeah that but that doesn’t mean it’s true. But that’s what you get without a singular law-giver. People making up ignorant non-sense and writing 1200 page books about it.

Moral Relativism is a source of violence and oppression. But that’s not the only place.

2. Religious Moralism (Jonah)

Moralism is not the same as being moral. Moralism is making morality the MOST important thing to you. And that might sound good, but it leaves no room for things like Grace.

So Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches to them to give up their evil ways, to give up their violence. Now, get ready for this, they do it. They say ‘Yeah you’re right, we’re proud, we arrogant, we’re godless, we’re going to give up our violence and change our ways.

Now you’d expect this to be the apex of Jonah’s career. He’s just become the most successful Hebrew prophet in the history of the world!

You’d expect to book of end there ‘And Jonah returned back to his own land rejoicing.’

But that’s not what happens. Instead what you have is this whole last chapter.

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. (Jonah 4:1)

In the original Hebrew it says, “He became evil with the evil he saw.”

Jonah wants violence. He wants fireballs coming out of the sky. He wants Sodom and Gomorrah.

And he’s MAD b/c there’s NOT violence.

Not only is moral relativism a source of violence, so is religious moralism.

Jonah is violent, in his heart. And he’s not violent in spite of being religious and moral, he’s violent b/c he’s religious moral.

“These are pagans. These are bad people. God, why haven’t you bombed them?!”

The problem with religious moralism is it gives you a reason to think you’re better than everyone else.

When you’re moralistic (which is different than being moral, being moralistic means morality is the most important thing to you), you have in you the seeds for oppression, abuse or power, and violence.

Look at this prayer in vs 2-3:

He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Jonah 4:2)

Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” - “I knew - hair-trigger compassionate. Kill me!” (Jonah 4:3)

He’s saying ‘I knew you were compassionate. I knew you were hair-trigger compassionate. Now kill me because I don’t want to live in a universe run by a loving God like you."

Where - violence come from - kills Jesus? Let me ask you a question: Where does the violence come from that kills Jesus? - The bad guys? The wicked? Nope, it comes from middle class, moral, religious people.

Summary: Moral relativism and religious moralism are both seeds for violence.

That means that every kind of person in every kind of society has the potential for violence and oppression.

The Strategy for Violence.

How does God handle the violent city of Nineveh. He sends a messenger to them and says ’40 days and Nineveh will be destroyed.’ - That’s quite the ultimatum. The evil stops, the violence stops, or you will be destroyed.

There’s no wiggle room here. You stop or you die.

So on one hand this is super tough.

On the other hand, it’s really tender and vulnerable that he sends this one man into this violent city in hopes of restoration.

(I would just like to say that this sermon in not about foreign policy)


2 WRONG reactions - wrongdoing.

This story shows us 2 strategies that we’re NOT supposed to take with wrongdoing. When someone hurts your you, abuses you, wrongs you, does evil to you.

The 2 things God does not allow: Vengeance. Get ready - Resignation.

Vengeange is to wound the wrongdoer.

It’s a way of dealing with your pain.

And it’s not for the Christian.

Resignation is this “Just let it go. Forget it. Move past it.”

It’s also a way of dealing with your pain. It’s dealing with your pain by avoiding. And it’s also not for the Christian.

Resignation is not about wounding the wrongdoer, it’s about having nothing to do with the wrongdoer. And Christians do it all day long, thinking they’re doing the right thing.

Neither vengeance nor resignation is concerned with the truth or justice.

It’s weird b/c on the surface they look so different. The wounder and the avoider, they’re both dealing with their pain in a selfish way. They’re both trying to permanently exclude the wrongdoer. So the excluder tends to look a little more ‘holy’ than the wounder, but it’s almost the same thing.


Forgiveness

So if God does not allow Vengeance or Resignation, what are we call for? Forgiveness.

I think people will right away so, “Ok, Forgiveness not vengeance.” - But forgiveness is also not resignation.

I think a lot of people think forgiveness just means not talking about it. But that’s not really true.

Think about God handling Nineveh. Does he just let it go and not talk about it? No, of course not.

Jesus doesn’t say ‘Pay evil for evil’ but he also doesn’t say ‘Just blow past it and never talk about it.’ No it says ‘Overcome evil with good’.

Here’s a definition of forgiveness that I heard awhile back that I like: “Forgiveness is dealing with and getting rid of your hate and anger before you deal with the wrongdoer.”

That’s very different than either vengeance or resignation.

With Vengeance, you’re dealing with your anger and hate WHILE you deal with the wrongdoer.

With Resignation, you’re not dealing with the wrongdoer at all. And neither of those are real forgiveness. “Forgiveness is dealing with and getting rid of your hate and anger before you deal with the wrongdoer.” You’re dealing with your hurt, and then you go and confront, if that’s the right thing.

“Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. Forgiving someone does not mean you demand no change in the perpetrator… In fact, forgiveness provides a framework in which justice can fruitfully be pursued.” (Miroslav Volf theologian - Croatia)

Translation: You’re never going to do justice if you don’t forgive.'

Translation: So long as all you care about is ‘justice’, evil wins.

You’re not choosing between justice and forgiveness, without forgiveness, you’re never going to get to justice.

If you haven’t forgiven someone, when you go and confront them, you’re not doing it for their sake, or God’s sake, you’re going for your sake. And you overdo it. You end up wounding, or humiliating.

“If you want justice and nothing but justice, you will inevitably get injustice. If you want justice without injustice, you must want love.” (Miroslav Volf)

Most of you are not vengeance people. I’ll tell you how much of you deal with people who wrong you: You hate them on the inside and say nothing on the outside.

That’s what Jonah wanted. He wanted to hate them and have nothing to do with them. Which is the opposite of forgiveness.

Forgiveness requires you to deal with your hurt, then be willing to go and confront.

Practical

The secret to forgiving is not about what you do, it’s about who you are.

The secret to forgiving is about having the identity of a forgiven person.

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

“Do you have the right to be angry?”

The only way you can have sustained bitterness towards someone is if you feel like you’re better than they are.

Sexual abuse perpetrators. Think about all these sexual abuse guys. Let’s pretend one of them is definitely guilty. How ridiculous would it be for that one to come out speaking against another one? It would be all the way ridiculous. B/C they don’t have the right.

But God comes and says ‘Jonah, do you remember the whole fish thing?’ That you’re only here b/c I showed mercy to you?

The reason Jonah was violent was because he forgot the he too, was a sinner saved by grace.

Imagine the story had gone like this: Jonah deserved to die, but God showed him mercy. The Nineties deserved to die, but God showed them Mercy. And Jonah saw himself in their story.'

Forgiveness begins when you’re so humbled by God’s grace that you don’t feel the right to be angry, and yet so affirmed by God’s grace you don’t have the need to be angry.


Jonah & Jesus.

I’ll close with this an amazing contrast between Jonah and Jesus.

At the end of the book of Jonah, Jonah is outside the city that could have killed him, and they didn’t, and he’s angry with it.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus riding into the city that IS going to kill him, and he weeps over it.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19)

“How often I have longed to gather you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23)

He’s weeping over the city that’s about to kill him.

Prepare - Communion

Jesus on the cross is the ultimate example of forgiveness. He is wronged, and he forgives without paying back.

And when that becomes real to you, it melts your anger down.


I’ll close with this letter that was written to a pastor years ago:

“Once upon a time I was engaged to a young lady who changed her mind. I forgave her, but it took me a whole year, and I had to forgive her in small sums over that whole 12 months. I paid these sums whenever I spoke to her and kept myself from rehashing the past, I paid them whenever I saw her with another man and refused self-pity and rehearsal inside for what she’d done to me, and I paid them whenever I praised her to others when I really wanted to slice away at her reputation.

Those were the payments, but she never knew them. However, I never knew her payments, but I know she made them. I could tell. Forgiveness is not only a refusal to hate someone; it’s choosing to love and will the good of the offender. It is painful, but wood, nails, and pain are the currency of forgiveness. Just as Christ’s wood and nails were. It leads to healing and, more, to resurrection.”


And so as they’ve pass communion, I’d like you spend just a minute in quiet reflection and ask yourself this question: “Who do I need to forgive? And then just spend a minute with God letting him remind you of his forgiveness, which is the source of your forgiveness as well.