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Of Jonah, Jeremiah and other momentous Losers

I think I’ve finally got a glimpse of what Jonah was going through. I never could understand his reaction… sure I knew that he was going to a people that he perceived to be corrupt, even personal enemies but wouldn’t that be all the more reason to rejoice after the entire city of 120,000+ people repented and turned to the Lord?
But then I look at Toronto and all I can see is corruption, selfishness, oppression and heart-break. Surely, I say to myself, we are living in exile. Not only is the city defined by these things, but those who claim to be the people of God are equally guilty and equally involved in a culture of violence and greed. At the same time I make these observations I talk with friends who tell me that “God is doing great things in this city… the Spirit is moving in new and exciting ways.” And that’s what made me think of Jonah. Perhaps he was so focused on the corruption that he was absolutely unable to understand how God could so quickly act compassionately. How could such a city be the place God chooses to show his grace? It makes me wonder: am I like Jonah? Am I unable to see that, in his grace, God has already begun to break into this city? But, at least in Ninevah there were signs of repentance. The city fasted and prayed, it humbled itself and (most importantly for this is what lies at the heart of repentance)they changed the ways in which they were living their lives.
So perhaps the parallel is closer to Jeremiah. I’ve always thought, from a pragmatic Western perspective, that Jeremiah must have been one of history’s biggest losers. Here was a fellow deeply in love with his people, his city, his nation and his God. He was broken hearted by the state of affairs in which he found himself and devastated by the consequences he knew would inevitably result. So he does everything he can to bring home his message – change the way you live your life or we will go into exile. And he really does try everything. Running around naked proclaiming, “this is how you will go into exile!” Building models of Jerusalem with tiny siege engines, “This is how our city will fall!” At the end of it all what does he have to show for it? Nothing. The people he loves are killed, raped and led away, the city he loves is destroyed by fire, the nation he loves no longer exists, and the God he loves turned them over to the consequences of their actions. Jeremiah dedicated himself to showing the people of God how they had fatally compromised themselves with the culture around them and in the end he accomplished nothing. And so I am left wondering, “Is this situation more like Jeremiah’s?” Is it that the people around me, even the people I love and respect, haven’t recognized the true depth of our complicity with our culture? Boy, that’s a scary thought. It sort of adds a whole different human element to the rejection Jeremiah faced. After all (to quote Isaiah this time), “my people go into exile for their lack of knowledge.” A prophet, it seems, faces an amazingly lonely road. Maybe I’m just beginning to realize how lonely that road is.
All the more reason to focus on God as Lover.
At the same time I can’t help but wonder if these reflections are founded upon a pride I have been unable to root out. I could have a serious Messiah-complex. Who am I to compare myself to Jonah, let alone Jeremiah?

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  1. “A prophet, it seems, faces an amazingly lonely road. Maybe I’m just beginning to realize how lonely that road is.” I read that, and thought to myself, “Is he then calling himself a prophet?”. And then I discovered that your user name is “poserorprophet”. The only way you are a poser or a prophet is if you are in fact claiming to be a prophet. I’m wondering, simply out of curiosity, if you are not a poser, what it is exactly that makes you a prophet?

  2. Hi. Just wanted to say hello. I just came upon your LJ, and I already can’t remember how.
    I should really friend you, but I’m concerned about being overwhelmed.
    As someone who’s been accused of having a Messiah complex, and who is definitely subject to the kind of second-guessing in which you were indulging three years ago, I just wanted to say hey. It’s tough, isn’t it?