So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” (Jonah 1:6, ESV)
My pastor is currently taking us on a tour through Jonah and we're in the first chapter of the story. I've studied the story many times and even taught on it. The context and original setting are fascinating as they highlight a Jewish literary genre known as the "listening circle" (credit to the late Dr. Jim Grier - I really wish I could find the tapes from decades ago). In that setting, the Jewish listener was expected to interact with the teller, hissing and booing at any person outside their circle and cheering the would-be hero that was Jonah their prophet. But the whole story flips almost instantly as most of us know and becomes a stark illustration of a man who knew better running from a God who has given him a direct task.
Fast forward to the boat in the severe storm and this rebuke from the captain. He shouts at Jonah to wake him up and essentially echoes God's original call to Jonah which asks, in more modern terms, "Who is your neighbor? Don't you have any concern for anyone but yourself?" And we all know Jonah's answer from the time God called all the way through his pouting and sulking above the city of Nineveh when God didn't rain down a nuclear holocaust on it.
Jonah repeatedly answers he only sees his neighbor as "his own people - the Jews" and anyone else is outside of that circle, they are "other". He's put himself in a very bad position when you think about his job as a prophet and the fact that God specifically asked him to rise above his own prejudice and definition of a neighbor. Consider Jesus' thoughts on this in the story of the Good Samaritan who most certainly was a cultural "other" in that day. How did that play out with a 1st century Jewish audience?
Oh how far we've come ... we view all this stuff we're seeing as "sad thing, but not my problem since it isn't impacting me specifically or directly". That's the Enemy slipping in to denigrate Imago Dei (click that link for a bit of an academic, but solid definition) in every single person around me. That's one of the biggest lies impacting us today. We've lost any sense of compassionate empathy for others ... and God weeps at that loss every bit as much as for those who have not come to realize their own heart bears his image.
The Crooked Path is not a solitary one by any means. It was never meant to be. God designed us for community with himself and with others. One of our intended callings is to reach across to the "others" we find so we can help them see Imago Dei in themselves and be a part in leading them to a life that is worthy of that image, one that looks like something other than death or a dead end. It's becoming an increasing challenge to me as I navigate today's life and headlines. Maybe you are seeing something similar.
Imago Dei in 2020 is still God's thumbprint on the human soul. That makes LIFE matter and should lead me to consider when any particular segment of lives is oppressed, I need to stand up and call that out. It's not applying some special treatment ... it's honoring Imago Dei in those who far too many play they Jonah card on and treat them as something less than they are.