The Jonah Mindset

To understand the Jonah Mindset, you have to be familiar with the story of Jonah, as it appears in the Bible:

  • God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach
  • Jonah Runs to Joppa to catch a ship for Tarshish
  • During a great storm, Jonah volunteers to be thrown overboard
  • A great fish swallows Jonah
  • Jonah is in the fish for 3 days, then repents
  • God caused the fish to spit Jonah out on dry land
  • God calls Jonah a second time to go to Nineveh to preach
  • The people of Nineveh repent
  • Jonah is upset that the people were not destroyed

Jonah was commanded to go to Nineveh, but he made a clear decision to not obey. He reveals to us in Chapter 4 that he did not want to go to Nineveh because he knew the people would repent, causing God not to bring His judgment on them. I’m not as concerned with why he disobeyed God, as I am that he chose to disobey God. This is the mindset that I want to address. When God sends us to guide someone to repentance, then we need to obey Him.

In Matthew 28 there is a passage that has been dubbed “The Great Commission.”

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT)

We all have been called to a mission field of some sort. God does not send everyone to another country to proclaim His gospel. Some of us have just been asked to share with those around us. The problem is that often, when He issues this command to “Go”, we adopt a Jonah mindset; we do anything except deliver God’s message.

We can go into great detail, and describe how each element of this story applies to us today. I would rather just point out what I see as the overall point. First, God does not need any help in accomplishing the spread of the gospel to the entire world. However, He has chosen to call on each of us to at least do a small part by sharing with those around us. But, for whatever reason, we choose not to obey. Common excuses include:

  • “I’m not a preacher”
  • “I don’t know what to say”
  • “I don’t have time”
  • etc. etc. etc.

God is not calling us to deliver His message perfectly, but to just deliver it.

The late Christian musician Keith Green wrote the words over 30 years ago in a song called “Jesus Commands Us to Go”:

Jesus commands us to go
But we go the other way
So He carries the burden alone
While His children are busy at play
Feeling so called to stay

Oh, how God grieves and believes
That the world can’t be saved unless the ones He’s appointed obeys
His command and His stand for the world
That He loved more than life, oh He died, and He cries out tonight

Jesus commands us to go
It should be the exception if we stay
It’s no wonder we’re moving so slow
When His church refuse to obey
Feeling so called to stay

Oh how God comes as He starts the great judgment of fire
So He can gain, His greatest desire
‘Cause He knows that the souls of the lost
They can only be reached through us, we’re His hands and His feet

Jesus commands us to go
It should be the exception if we stay
It’s no wonder we’re moving so slow
When God’s children refuse to obey
Feeling so called to stay

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4 thoughts on “The Jonah Mindset

  1. I can’t seem to get rid of it. My parents had an odd sense of humor. I’ve heard whale jokes ever since my first day on earth.

    No I am actually grateful for the name! It’s been a wonderful journey being a Jonah.

    Cool discoveries! And, like Moses, we need to remember God qualifies whom He calls!!

    I find the Jonah account really interesting though… When you get to chapter 4, and the truth comes out about “why Jonah ran” it doesn’t seem to be primarily lack of courage or self-esteem, or “not wanting to be inconvenienced”… it seems to be that Jonah didn’t want to see God do His famous love-and-grace-and-mercy thing.

    Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion
    4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 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. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

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

    Jonah says basically “I KNEW YOU WOULD FORGIVE THEM! THAT’S why I ran!!” Could it be that we get uncomfortable that He desires to pardon all people, and all kinds of people, in a moment? Have we ever felt bitter or jealous when a life spent in terrible sin gets filled with favor, peace, joy, forgiveness, and that in-love fire with Jesus, in a moment, and we’re still feeling guilty and condemned over that red light we ran? Hm. I wonder what the Jonah mindset really is… just some thoughts.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree! When Jonah did finally go to Nineveh, it almost seems like he did not seek their repentance as much as he wanted to simply be the one to announce their impending doom. However, I can’t deny God’s sovereign right to perform acts of compassion on whomever He chooses. After all, He did choose to be compassionate with me.

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      1. Amen. My life being sustained is pure grace and compassion on His part, that’s for sure! It seems we can feel a host of things in reaction to God’s “go” … I pray we’d move past them all and listen to the One voice!

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