Ninevehphobia – The Disease We Don’t Talk About
Aug 28, 2014 1931
Ninevehphobia (noun: “fear of unbelievers”) is the silent killer of true Christianity.
Jonah is a one of the most interesting characters in the Old Testament. He belonged to the right religion. He did all the right things. He served God faithfully. He obeyed God in everything. That is… until God called him to go to Nineveh. And so Jonah acted – right away! He jumped on a ship bound for the opposite side of the Mediterranean – to Spain!
You see, preaching in his Christian community, to his Christian people, was fine. But the Nineveh song wasn’t in his church song book, going to Nineveh wasn’t part of his church beliefs, he’d heard too many sermons preached against Nineveh, and quite frankly… no-one from his church had ever gone there to preach before.
Jonah didn’t get the gospel. The gospel is love for the lost; the gospel is good news for perishing. Those who have understood it follow the Master, and they seek and save the lost. That’s why Jonah was is the miserable prophet.
If the gospel were good news only for religious folk, then the gospel would be bad news for the vast majority of the world. But no… there is not a shred of good news in the gospel for those who retain any bit of self-righteousness. At the end of the book of Jonah, he is miserable. The gospel is apparently not good news for him. The gospel is good news for Nineveh.
What amazes me is that the way that the book of Jonah is written highlights the pagan idolaters on the ship and the heathen people of Nineveh were closer to God, and “got it”, more than God’s chosen prophet. This whole story is a huge challenge for Christians everywhere today.
Ninevehphobia is the tremendous scourge for Christians today. How many Christians only have Christian friends? Or even worse, friends of their own denomination/church? What does that say about us?
In spite of the nice words, the reality is that religion all too often teaches us, like the Pharisees taught the people in the time of Jesus, to run a million miles from Nineveh. We like to minister to our own people – our own faith community – repeat the mantras of the gospel to them – because you know… there’s enough work to be done right there.
The gospel teaches us to go – to go into all the nations – to penetrate everywhere – to look for the lost – and to share the good news of the kingdom of grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
This is hugely radical stuff. It turns the world upside down. It is like nothing you have ever known before. That’s the call of Jesus to you and to me.
Finally… there is one thing that really sticks out for me in the story of Jonah. Just look at how patient God is with his thick-headed, stubborn, proud, self-righteous prophet. He is talking to Jonah kindly right to the end.
At the end of the book of Jonah, the guy is angry. He’s had a “whale of a time.” But he is angry at Nineveh and he is angry at God and he is angry at himself. There are too many angry Christians today. The book of Nineveh gives us some real insights into why.
At the end the book of Jonah ends with a question – a challenge (Jonah 4:10–11). It is a question designed for Jonah to consider the vastness of the mercy of God that reaches beyond all the boundaries of traditional religion. It is a question designed by God to give Jonah a final chance to embrace his role in the kingdom of God.
That’s where the book ends. We don’t know what Jonah’s answer was. I kind of like that.
The answer is up to everyone who claims to have believed the gospel. It is up to me. It is up to you.