Many young children could tell you the story of Jonah — he was the prophet of God who refused to preach to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1:2-3). His stubborn refusal to obey God’s will led him to seek a place, “away from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3).
Sadly, there are many modern-day Jonahs: people who know the truth, but refuse to obey. Just as the real Jonah found a ship where he thought he could hide from God, these modern Jonahs may board a variety of “ships” to attempt to cover their sin.
Some “Hide” by Moving On — In areas where there are many congregations of the Lord’s church, people who are guilty of sin and subject to church discipline (cf. Gal. 6:1-2; 1 Cor. 5:1-13) sometimes try to “hide” by simply placing membership at some other area congregation where their background is not known. After spending time in the new congregation their consciences become comfortable and no one seems the wiser. There may well be occasions when it is right and necessary to leave one congregation for another, but hiding personal sin should never be a motive for such a move.
Some “Hide” in the Background — Some brethren seem to believe that they can “use” the church at their convenience, and then drop out of sight as soon as some commitment on their part becomes evident. How many well-intentioned Christians have been chastised over the years for not properly “ministering” to brethren who have hardly been involved in the work of the local church, yet suddenly find themselves in a time of personal crisis? Mark these words: all members of God’s church bear a personal responsibility to other Christians from which we cannot hide (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-18). We are being as stubborn as Jonah when we hide in the background and selfishly allow others to fulfill the work for which God has called us all (2 Thess. 2:13-14; Eph. 4:12).
Some “Hide” in the Water — Baptism is the point at which an alien sinner comes into contact with the saving blood of Jesus Christ (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-6). However, some in the Lord’s church erroneously teach that baptism eliminates a need for repentance. The subject of divorce and remarriage has been the focal point of this particular argument. It is sometimes argued that a couple in an adulterous union (cf. Matt. 19:3-9) can be baptized and cleansed of sin without breaking that sinful union; therefore they can continue to live as a married couple despite God’s clear teaching to the contrary (cf. Eph. 4:28; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Brethren, how can one truly be saved without bearing any, “fruit of repentance” (Matt. 3:8; Lk. 13:3)? Baptism washes away sin, not previous marriages (read Matt. 19:3-9).
Some “Hide” by Falling Away — One of the more popular, though false, ideas arising among our brethren in recent years is that a Christian can practice the Christian faith in isolation. Such a claim is purely the work of Satan. When God saved people in the New Testament, He added them to the church at the very same moment (Acts 2:47). Thus, God’s word teaches the essentiality of living in community and fellowship with others of like precious faith. It is arrogant in the extreme to believe that we can get along in this life without our Christian brothers and sisters (Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24-25). Jonah thought he could hide from God by leaving the people of God and going to sea. Are there modern-day Jonahs among us who believe that they do not truly need the church, the blood-bought body of Jesus Christ?
“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth…” (1 Chr. 16:9) —JB