Photo Credit: Brian BarnettDonald Miller wrote about a question one of his teachers asked his elementary school class one day.  The lesson was on values clarification, and the question was this: if there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in the lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mom, and a garbage man, and one person had to be thrown overboard to prevent the lifeboat from sinking, which person would you choose?

Miller says that he can’t remember for sure, but he thinks his class decided to throw the lawyer out of the boat.  He says, “I do remember, however, that the class did not hesitate in deciding who had value and who didn’t.”

Most of us can likely relate to Miller’s classmates.  We have a pretty good idea of who is worthy, and who is not.  Maybe it’s because we’re naturally wired as human beings to think in such terms; more likely, I believe, it’s we’re conditioned to do so – by our upbringing or family heritage or personal experience, or by our cultural norms and values, or maybe even by our religion.  Whatever the cause, we think in these terms in order to protect ourselves from the world, or at least to make us feel safer.  If we know who is good and who is evil, who is trustworthy and who’s a fraud, we can decrease our odds of ever being hurt or disappointed or disillusioned.

But more than this, thinking in such terms also helps us maintain our own sense of goodness, I believe.  We all like to think that we deserve a place on that lifeboat; from God’s perspective, we’re the worthy ones.

The story of Jonah, however, reminds us that there’s room on the so-called lifeboat for everyone.  From where God sits, we’re all in need of the same measure of mercy, whether we’re God’s chosen messenger like the prophet Jonah, or the ne’er-do-wells like the Ninevites.  There is no need to boot anyone off the lifeboat just yet, because there are no write-offs in God’s book until the very end.  From where God sits, we all look the same — like broken, tired, lost and hurting children in need of rescue, all in deep need of a place on the lifeboat, all in need of a measure of love we do not deserve.

Rev. Mark