Too many Christians these days “enjoy condemning people,” one famous New York preacher recently told TBN host Mike Huckabee.
Timothy Keller, author and founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, makes the case in his new book, “The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy,” that Christians can learn quite a bit from the Old Testament character.
One of the most important lessons believers can glean from the story, he told Huckabee, is that we shouldn’t find joy in admonishing one another. Keller, paraphrasing the late theologian Francis Schaeffer, said those who “teach judgment without tears” are lacking “Jesus’ spirit.”
“God does judge because he’s a righteous God,” Keller said. “He does not enjoy judging people; he will do it. And we’re not supposed to enjoy condemning people, so that’s one of the lessons of Jonah.”
In the Old Testament account of Jonah, the writer explains that the prophet had no interest in the people of Nineveh, but was instead eager to condemn them for their sinful ways.
“Jonah went to the city, and preached to the city, but didn’t love the city,” Keller explained. “That wasn’t good enough for God, because at the very end, he says to Jonah, ‘How can you not love a city with 120,000 people who don’t know their right hand from their left?’”
At one point in the interview, Keller even described Jonah as the “anti-good Samaritan,” noting how begrudgingly he followed God’s commands to aid those in need, many of whom looked and believed differently than him.
The reality, though, is that we all need grace equally, whether we’re saved or not.
“I would say very few parents enjoy disciplining their children,” Keller said, “but I do think, I’m afraid, there’s too many preachers and Christians who do enjoy condemning people.”
Huckabee, for his part, agreed with the famous pastor, describing that reality as “one of the great tragedies of the modern-day church.”