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Who is My Neighbor?

September 29, 2019

Scripture: Jonah 1:5-6

I. You are a neighbor when you use your faith for the common good.

A. In Jonah 1:5 we see what happens when Jonah runs into a violent storm on board a ship in the Mediterranean Sea. We begin to see a contrast between the pagan sailors and the prophet of God Jonah. And Jonah does not look so good by comparison. The sailors prayed to their gods. These were false gods, not the real God that we worship, but at least the sailors prayed. But did Jonah, the prophet of the one true God, pray? No. He slept. The sailors probably thought, “This man does not care about us. We are all going to die, and yet this man will not even pray.”

B. The pagan ship captain (vs. 6) uses the exact same words that God Himself had spoken to Jonah in Jonah 1:2 when God had said, “Arise, go to Nineveh.” These words must have mocked Jonah. The only reason Jonah was on that ship was to run away from the presence of God. And now, here is some unbeliever in Israel’s God telling Jonah to arise and call on his god. The words must have slapped Jonah in the face with his own disobedience. The captain thought that maybe Jonah’s God might save them in the storm. But Jonah didn’t seem to care about the sailors.

C. God cares about how we as believers relate to and treat our neighbors who are deeply different from us. God wants us to work for the common good of all. God wants us to treat people of different races and faiths in a way that is respectful, loving, generous and just. And if we fail to treat non-believers in our community with love and justice, those non-believers have the right to judge us based on our commitment or lack thereof to the good of all. Genesis 1:27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

II. You are a neighbor when you use your faith to see common grace.

A. We see another contrast between Jonah and the sailors in the use of the word “down” in the life of Jonah and the use of the word “fear” in the life of the sailors. Jonah is going down. He is descending into darkness, away from God. See Jonah 1:3, 5 and 2:6. In Jonah 1:5 we see that the sailors fear the storm. In Jonah 1:10 they were exceedingly afraid. They feared the power of the one true God. Then in vs. 16 the sailors fear God in the sense of reverence and worship. Jonah then goes down away from God. But the Gentile sailors keep growing in their fear and worship of the one true God.

B. How can this be? How can non-believers act so much better than a supposed believer would act? The story of Jonah and the sailors is an example of common grace. This common grace is given to non-Christians as well as Christians. Common grace teaches us that God gives gifts of wisdom, moral insight, goodness and beauty across humanity, regardless of race or religion. We see an example of common grace in Psalm 145:15-16: The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” The contrast between how Jonah treated people of a different race and religion and how the Good Samaritan and the sailors treated people of a different race and religion is stark.  We can be more like the Good Samaritan and less like the bad prophet Jonah by knowing Jesus – the Great Samaritan – better.

Pray that Jesus would open your eyes again to how incredibly merciful He has been to you.

Sources: The book of Jonah

Commentaries on Jonah by Desmond Alexander and Tim Keller