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Tell us about yourself

So they said to him, “Tell us, since you’re the cause of this evil happening to us: What do you do and where are you from? What’s your country and of what people are you?” -Jonah 1:8 (CEB)

The finger of God had pointed to Jonah in the lots and now the sailors gathered round him and began to question him. When we go on a journey in a vehicle with strangers, we don't always get the chance to become acquainted, but sometimes we do. In the story of Jonah, the other passengers and crew members were happy to let him remain anonymous. He was just "passenger x" to them. But, the crisis that arose and the determination of the lots that pointed to Jonah brought up the question of, "who are you?" "We would not have asked, we would have let you remain anonymous; but now your problems have become our problems", the sailors might have said.

The sailors and the author of Jonah are illustrating a communal cause and affect of sin. One person's sin or disobedience is affecting a whole group of people. The way we live today is with the notion that each individual lives their own separate life and we all have our little box we live in and we do not affect each other and our box is no body's business but our own. Husbands, for example, might have a separate life from their wives that is secret. In spiritual or religious fellowships, we may keep much of our lives and our selves secret. While we need privacy and we may not be ready to "tell all", it is possible that in our culture, rugged individualism has trumped self-disclosure and transparency. How can you walk with me if you don't know me?

The sailors have four questions for Jonah, in order to try to learn more about him and why he has invited this calamity. They don't judge him or jump to conclusions about him. While it's pretty obvious that he is in some kind of trouble and that his problem has become their problem, they remain compassionate or at least clinical. How often do we condemn someone before hearing their story? How often do we judge someone by appearances? Asking questions aimed at learning more about a person and nudging them towards self-disclosure is very different than just judging them. How many times when we find out the whole story, does our opinion about someone change. Suspending judgement is a very good default position to be in towards people. Isn't that why the Bible is so clear on the fact that we are not to judge or condemn people. Only God knows the whole story of a person and has the right to judge them.

We can break down judgements into two categories. The judgements of God are like when a judge makes a judgement. Only God is "the judge". We are not the judge. But we can make judgements or exclamatory evaluations. Unlike the evaluation that it is warm outside, when some one is talking too loud, I make that judgement and ask them to talk softer. When someone almost hits my car or is about to drive in front of me, I can make a judgement that they don't see me and that danger is imminent and honk my horn. When there are 12 pieces of chicken on a plate and we have 4 people at the table who all are sharing the chicken and someone takes 6 pieces, we have a right to judge that action and say "hey" to that person; but that isn't a final judgement or condemnation of them.

Rather than judge Jonah, the sailors sought to know who he was are where he was from. They didn't get him at all. They wanted to know his story because they have been thrust into the position of helping him get resolution. No shaming, or condemning; but just, "who art thou?"


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