However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence.Jonah 1:3 (HCSB)
Jonah didn’t much like what God had asked him to do. The Ninevites were the most brutal and terrifying nation in the ancient world. Their cruelty was legendary: the very name of them put fear into the hearts of everyone from the lowest beggar to the greatest emperor. Jonah was asked to go tell these people, in their own city, that they were sinners and God was going to deal with their wickedness. It is hardly surprising that Jonah ran as far away in the opposite direction as he could!
Compared to this, what excuse do we have for running away—for fleeing like cowards from what God asks of us? Most of us are not called to go preach to a militant Islamic terror cell where death certainly awaits. Most of us are not called to minister to people in a disease and virus-ridden community far away from modern medicine and care. But we are called to proclaim Jesus as Lord, God, and Saviour where God has placed us.
Christ tells us that when a person fails to acknowledge Jesus publicly for who he is, God in turn will not recognise that person when he comes before the White Throne of judgement at the last day (Matthew 10:32-33). That is a fearful thought! It is a challenging thought. It is a humbling thought. Jesus follows up this statement by saying that he did not come to bring peace to the earth but conflict—conflict between friends and family—over who Jesus is. As Christians, we are to expect to come up against opposition and disagreement, even violent opposition, to our claim that Jesus is God and that all need to believe in him to be saved. Where we are called is beside the point: we are all called to proclaim the truth of God where we are now or wherever we are sent. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”