If there is one thing we learn from the Book of Jonah, it is that more often than not a pagan will be saved before a prophet. The sailors repented at the sight of a storm. The Ninevites at the sound of one warning. Jonah? It took three days in the belly of a fish…and he still did not want God to get his way.
The Bible reads, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:1-3, ESV).
Maybe this is why Jesus spent so much time with sinners and seemed to be harder on the religious elite? Because he knew so many were just one warning away. That they needed help – they just did not know how to ask. Or where to turn?
Contrast that with people like Jonah. They act as if they are better than the Ninevites. And on many counts, they are. But they are not good enough. Sure, the Ninevites were treacherous people and were guilty of terrible crimes – many of them towards Israel. But who was Jonah, really? Someone who could not believe that God’s grace was sufficient? Or that obedience should be immediate and without limit? That he could think that he could outrun or outsmart the One True God? Is that any less pagan?
Or the Pharisees who would come years later. Those who claimed to know God better than anyone else but who would kill him when they saw him face-to-face. Maybe we do need to spend more time with the “pagans.” Maybe that is where the change all begins.