Jonah Project 41

Jonah 4:1 

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 

In your view, what’s wrong with the world? That is the question G.K. Chesterton asks in his book by this same name: What’s Wrong with the World? 

We all have our list of answers to the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” Where to start: War? Environment? Politics? Education? Healthcare? Immigration? Violence? Family problems? Religion? You pick. I pick. We all pick and choose what we think is wrong with the world. And thing is, most of the time, we’re right. There’s plenty wrong with our world.The question that interests me more though is “How did you come up with your list of what’s wrong with the world?” What sensors, grid, value system, or worldview helped you assess what’s wrong with the world.

When a London newspaper posed this question in the early days of the twentieth century, “What’s wrong with the world?”, as a man of Christian faith and wit, G.K. Chesterton’s answer was short, and personal. No list. Just one problem. Chesterton’s letter to the editor simply answered, “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.” Timothy Keller, in his bestselling book The Prodigal God, comments, “That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus” (New York: Dutton, 2008, 46).

That is the attitude Jonah has yet to grasp. As Chesterton retorts in his book What’s Wrong with the World, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” The ideal of humility and compassion for enemies is found difficult and left untried by most. We’d rather wade into the flames of anger, raising our red flags and ranting against what’s wrong with the world. 

Truth is, what’s wrong with the world bothers us, raises our red flags, gets us angry. It should. If we are not getting angry, we’ve gotten apathetic, which in my view is a much worse state of affairs than mere anger. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is apathy. There’s plenty in our world to hate because we are wired to love. When we love, we also suffer.

We see lack of love in so many shapes and sizes, including injustice, violence, hostility, lack of hospitality, excessive materialism, greed, arrogance, prejudice, intolerance, tribal warfare, abuse, addictive lifestyles, apathy. The list goes on and on.

So we get angry. Then we get tired of getting angry. Sociologists have coined the phrase “compassion fatigue” to describe the common problem of people who have hardened their hearts against the wrongs of the world to deaden the pain of feeling sad, angry, and upset about what’s wrong with the world.

At this point in Jonah’s journey, he’s still angry. Oddly though, he’s unwilling to see himself in the mirror. He sees nothing wrong with Jonah. Chesterton is shrewd when he writes in What’s Wrong with the World, “When a man really tells the truth, the first truth he tells is that he himself is a liar.” Jonah has yet to come to the place where he can get angry about lying to himself about what he believes. It will take the rest of the Book of Jonah, all of chapter four, for God to get Jonah’s attention and begin to help him sit still, calm down, and seriously look into the mirror to see what’s wrong with Jonah.

Why does Jonah get angry at God? Because God’s compassion is aimed at the wrong people? Because God is compassionate towards Jonah’s enemies? Because God loves unlovely people? Because God doesn’t fit into the tiny little “god-box” Jonah has crafted? Because love is messy? Or maybe because there is something wrong with Jonah’s small worldview of God.

In the weeks ahead, we will explore more views of God in light of this fourth chapter of Jonah, hoping to see a bigger view, a larger heart, a wider value system, a lovelier grid, a more in tune sensor to understanding what truly is wrong with our world and how we may make a loving difference in a messy world.

God keeps seeing what we do, inviting us to turn from our evil ways, including the evil ways of refusing to offer compassion to those who harm us. God continues to surprise us, pouring out compassion upon us and upon those we avoid or dislike, loving us in spite of all that’s wrong with our world, including all that is wrong with the inner world of our own soul.

Book cover image from What’s Wrong with the World, by G.K. Chesterton