In Jonah's brief prayer from the great fish's belly, he began with what appears to be a self-righteous proverb against idolaters. Yet, it was even more a confession of his own idolatry; of asserting his own will over God's. Regardless what it seems, this prayer must be a confession of his own sin, as the next verse is a promise of thanksgiving sacrifice, which he could not perform without first having confessed his sin and repented of it.
Is this a true, Biblical principle, or is it only applicable to the Old Testament? If it is the former, today's church needs to tremble in fear of judgment, as idols abound among the brethren; idols of religion, materialism, pride, sectarianism. Many in today's church--myself included--are guilty of Jonah's sin; which is refusing to minister to the dregs of society, the down-and-outers whose excesses have defeated them, and yet they desperately cling to "the hair of the dog that bit them." Those are people for whom Jesus died, and yet the very depravity that confines them repulses the good Christians whose commission it is to love them to the Savior.
Yes, today's Church stands proudly in guilt of Jonah's sin, not deigning to dirty themselves on those who need to see Christ's love in action.
Isaiah spoke for the Eternal One about meaningless religious observances: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 58:6-14 ESV)
The apostle James added the New Testament post script to this prophesy: If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27 ESV)
What did James mean by, "Keep oneself unstained from the world?" Are we to avoid getting close enough to sinners that they might contaminate us? As we do that, we allow the world's materialistic values to saturate our lives.
We conservatives glibly reject the social activism we witness among liberal Christendom as simply a "social gospel." And how do we impact the world for Christ? Those of us who bother trying, thump our Bibles at the world's sinners, condemning them to perdition for not living as we Good Christians do.
Jesus had quite a lot to say about the religious hypocrites of His time--none of it good. Are we doomed to repeat their sin, and their condemnation? Not if we breathe deeply of God's word for our own health, before we try using it on those we wouldn't have at our dinner tables.
We will be Jonah's brethren one way or the other; either in shirking our Great Commission responsibility, or in our repentance and ultimate obedience.