The World’s Worst Missionary – Why We Named Our Son Jonah

The World’s Worst Missionary – Why We Named Our Son Jonah

One good friend jokingly asked me, “Why would you name your son after the world’s worst missionary?” A fair question. My response was, “but the Lord used him to initiate perhaps the greatest revival the world has ever seen.” While this is an exciting aspect of Jonah’s life and ministry, it is not exactly why we decided to name our son after the prophet.

Jonah, as every human being before and since, was a product of his culture. He had great disdain and contempt for those who were different than him. He enjoyed a false sense of security and superiority as an Israelite. It is reasonable to assume that this hatred stemmed from a long-running cultural tide that was flowing through the hearts of the nation of Israel at that time. There was a problem, and it is interesting to note that roughly one generation later the complete fall of the Northern Kingdom would come(c.750).

Jonah knew God. He knew his word and his character. In Jonah 1:9 he articulates to the sailors, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven, who made the sea and dry land.” And later to the Lord, Jonah frustratedly proclaims, “You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah clearly knew the Lord’s character, but the picture was not complete. There was no love for the nations. Jonah failed to love those the Lord loved.

It’s odd that Jonah is virtually the only person in his short book that does not repent. But, we believe that Jonah’s heart was eventually softened. The very existence of his book is evidence of three important changes that occurred in Jonah’s heart: (1) He repented before the Lord and saw his own need for mercy, (2) He changed his attitude toward outsiders, in line with the Lord’s kindness toward them, and (3) He longed to see the people of God changed in a similar fashion (hence, he writes to them!).

To his own surprise, Jonah is the one who is most in need of God’s grace, not those in Nineveh.  According to the Lord, the Ninevites did, “not know their right hand from their left” (4:11). But Jonah was born into the people of God. He enjoyed the privilege of belonging to a community of believers who carried the word of the Lord. He should have known better, and he writes down his experience for us so that the people of God would not repeat his mistake.

We see in Jonah’s book a desire for change in the people of God. He writes back to the nation of Israel in an effort to change the cultural tide, to help them see the scope of the mission of God. Fifty years later in Judah, the Lord would say through Isaiah,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

God’s people had clearly forgotten that the scope of God’s redemptive plan was no less than all of the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3).

May we never forget this. We pray that the Lord would use our Jonah just as he used this humble prophet 2,700 years ago. We pray he is open honest about areas where his heart fails to align with the Lord’s. We pray that he is quick to repent and eager to be an example of God’s grace in the midst of God’s people. And we pray that our good Lord would use him to change the culture of his people, that more would come to enjoy the humble blessing and calling of participating with Jesus in his world mission.

Jonah 3 Months, a set on Flickr.

Jonah Whale Japan 3 months

Jonah on his three-month birthday


  1. David Morton says:

    I love the choices of pillows you used for the pictures. Great way to incorporate the story of his name into his 3 mo pictures.

  2. Ol'Daddy and Guam says:

    We love you Baby Jonah!

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