Fleeing from Nineveh

Jonah 1:3.---' Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.'

Jonah is so many-sided and provocative and familiar a character that it would take a biography to exhaust him. How faulty God's chosen agents can be! And yet He chooses them, bears with them, comes down to their level and pleads with them. The rather crude anthropomorphism with which God is presented here should not deflect us from root principles. 'Jonah' belongs to a primitive age. But all the trouble God had with Jonah He has with us, though we do not recognize it, because the local situation is so different, and the terms and symbols of that distant age are so strange to us. How Jonah clung to a localized idea of God! And how modern that is: and how hard it was and how bitter his experience before that could be hammered.

Jonah is the first great missionary book. It marks an epoch in the history of world religion. As long as he was able to retain his conventional view of God---a God circumscribed by the traditional forms and discreetly defined as to territory and scope---Jonah was placid enough. But as soon as he began to find how great God really is, it was too much for him, and he fled from the presence of the Lord---a God who began to break down accepted barriers, who declined to be restricted to Israel or the discreet ceremonies of the Temple, who began to claim Nineveh, the Nineveh of traditional enmity, the Nineveh of politics, of business. When God begins to seem to have an opinion; when He begins to extend His claims to all the despised or disliked, or neglected Ninevehs of the world, many a Jonah turns to flee. The burden of the Lord is too great for him. We should consider modern Ninevehs.

There is the Peace question---another Nineveh. 'War must always be,' they say. In other words, the Nineveh of international politics must always be outside God's jurisdiction; for no one imagines that God believes in war. War is made by politicians and financiers: not by soldier, they know too much about it; nor by the people, who in the end are always the losers. If the Churches flee from their commission here and quail before the magnitude of the task and relax a jot of their energies until this extra territorial tract---this modern Nineveh---is brought within the sway of the God of the whole earth. United Christianity can stop war. The universality of God, the extention of His claim not only to every nation, but to every area and territory of national life---it is an enormous, incredible task: and like Jonah of old, we flee from it.

War is possible because statesmen can rely upon the peoples to accept certain others as their official 'enemies'; but let it be known that the Church will never acquiesce in this mechanical and wholesale breach of fellowship, and she would go far to paralyze the hand of war. Indeed, if there should ever be a "next war," the prime responsibility for the calamity will rest upon the Christian church because she did not---while yet there was time---give due warning to the world that the professed disciples of the Prince of Peace could never again rail into battle.

Nations are 'called' like men: and England and America today do seem to be specially called to the moral leadership of the world. If England and America, instead of chaffering about the tonnage of cruisers and the range of guns, could decide upon a combined peace principle and policy, what the rest of the world did or did not do would not matter much. To allow small pinpricks to irritate us into a resentful inactivity, or to allow national pride to stand in the way of this Divine commission were surely as much to flee from the face of the Lord as did Jonah of old.

It is a reversion from the conception of God as universal, which God Himself was trying to bring home to Jonah, and which received its highest sanction in that topmost peak of Divine revelation---'No longer in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father, for God is spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.'

The religion of Christ is a dynamic and active force, and not merely static and stationary. Therefore churches all over the world which show no energy and force flowing out to enrich the world and its peoples in the work of evangelization become dead to all intents and purposes.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha