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Embracing the Other

October 6, 2019

Scripture: Jonah 1:7-10

Matthew 5:44-47: But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

I. You can get your identity from your race when you fail to embrace the Other.

A. In Jonah 1:7 the sailors try to figure out who is to blame for this violent storm they are going through on the Mediterranean Sea. What do the sailors do as soon as they determine that Jonah and his God are responsible for the storm? They quickly ask Jonah a series of questions in verse 8 about his identity. They want to figure out as soon as possible what Jonah has done to anger this God who sent the storm so that they can know how to appease this God of Jonah’s.

B. What is the first answer Jonah gives in terms of his identity in verse 9? I am a Hebrew. Jonah first goes to his race. I am a Jew. The question about race was the last question the sailors asked, but it was the first question Jonah answered. What is our true race as Christians? 1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

II. You can get your identity from your place when you fail to embrace the Other.

A. In verse 8 the sailors ask Jonah, “Where do you come from? What is your country?” Since Jonah was a Hebrew (vs. 9), he would be from Israel where the Hebrews lived. And since he feared the LORD, Israel’s God, this also indicated that Jonah’s place was Israel. Jonah could not love his enemies the Ninevites. Jonah’s identity was too wrapped up in his place and his people. To categorize people as the Other is to focus on the ways they are different from you, to focus on their strangeness and to reduce them to these characteristics until they are dehumanized.

B. Today most of the world’s Christians are neither white nor western. This should not be a surprise to us in the church. We see what places the population of heaven will come from in Revelation 7:9: After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”

III. You need to get your identity from your purpose in order to embrace the Other.

A. In verse 10 we see that Jonah must have told the sailors about his purpose. The sailors knew that Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Jonah must have told the sailors then that he was a prophet of the LORD. His entire purpose in life was to tell people the word of God in order to bring people to repentance and reconciliation with God. Our purpose as Christians is found in Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Let us not treat people as Other. Let us follow in Jesus’ footsteps and embrace the Other.

The book of Jonah
Commentaries on Jonah by Desmond Alexander and Tim Keller