A Southern California brush fire in 1982 leaped fire lines cut to contain it and burned 5,000 acres before being extinguished. It caused $250,000 in property damage and cost $350,000 to fight it. Seven hundred firefighters fought the blaze for two days, during which it consumed 700 structures and several cars. Investigators traced the origin of the blaze to none other than the community Fire Chief. He had burned trash in a homemade incinerator, with an opening in its side. Sparks and hot ashes blew out and ignited the nearby grass, which spread to a catastrophe.
Highly inconsistent behavior, all would agree. Which is probably our greatest failure. Jonah certainly suffered from it. He served as a prophet, whose goal was always repentance of his subjects and forgiveness by God. Until God ordered him to preach in a community he didn’t like to people he loathed. He refused because he knew his preaching would convict them and God would forgive them. Imagine a preacher regretting baptisms from listening to his sermons! Since Jonah felt that Nineveh’s destruction was necessary to teach Israel a lesson, he didn’t want the job.
If only we could be consistent in our life, attitudes and ideals. But, like Jonah, we often find ourselves at the mercies of prejudice, loves, dislikes or carelessness. Knowing all the right things, and delighting in their ideas, we still imperfectly practice them. Lurking within is the humanity that can better instruct ten people how to live than be one of the ten taught. It would be easy to criticize Jonah and the fire chief if we didn’t suffer equally bad faults and sins. It’s a lot harder to remember the counsel of Jesus in Matthew 7:3-5, but applying his teaching will make us more patient when others fail, not so ready to judge, and always ready to forgive