But many other things had changed, as well. After a generation in Babylon, many of the men who came back brought wives who were Gentiles, who weren’t originally Jewish. As well, some of the men who were allowed to stay in the land also married Gentile women.
After the storm and after the business with the fish, Jonah changed his mind and went to Nineveh. This is where we find the story in today’s lesson. He still didn’t like the people of Nineveh, but at least there was a hard-nosed message of judgement: “Three days and Nineveh will be destroyed!” Jonah may have thought perhaps he’ll be lucky enough to see Nineveh actually destroyed. Like Alf Garnett, Archie Bunker, and Ted Bullpitt, Jonah was persistent in his prejudices.
In the three classic monotheistic religions that developed in the Middle East,
- Christianity, and
the concerns of these books remain. The one living God is not just the god of a single tribe, nation, or race. Instead, God’s love is there for all humanity.
But we live in a time when the Ezras and Nehemiahs increasingly seem to be having things their all own way at the moment. In the broader community, those who wish to restrict the right of full participation in our society on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion, or some artificial measure of economic productivity are being taken much more seriously than they deserve.
The Ezras and Nehemiahs have had it their own way for far too long. It’s not an easy time for those of us who value the inclusive lessons of Ruth and Jonah. Still, God promises us, the Ezras and Nehemiahs will never prevail for long: that’s the message of Ruth and Jonah.
While thick-headed Jonah may have provided a role model for some comic bigots in a later century, the book bearing his name is a caution to all people who seek today:
- to limit humanity to the members of any single race,
- to limit virtue to the citizens of any single nation,
- to limit God’s love to the adherents of any single religion.
On this year’s Australia Day weekend, let us give thanks to God for our multiracial, multicultural, and mulifaith society. Remembering the lessons of Jonah, let us solemnly pledge not to let the Alf Garnetts of our world ruin it.