The air conditioner in our laboratory had been broken for three days. In the middle of summer, the temperature in my office reached an uncomfortable 78F accompanied by high humidity. I was miserable as I alternatively placed a wet towel on my neck and forehead, attempting to complete my work. I always set the thermostat at 68F, leading to some of the staff to wear jackets and sweaters when they work in the office. My colleague presented a whimsical hypothesis. “I think your intolerance to heat is related to the temperature of your first job!”
Laughing, I answered him. “You may be right!” I had previously shared with him my experience with my first job, working in a fast-food restaurant. It was a summer job during the height of heat and humidity in Hawaii. The restaurant was not air-conditioned and the interior was made even more humid with cabinets steaming burrito flours adjacent to hot water baths warming the prepared meat fillings. After only a few minutes in this setting, I was dripping in sweat and the only relief I could avail was volunteering to go to the walk-in refrigerator to retrieve more food supplies. Since then, I have hated and avoided any situation that smacks of high heat and humidity. It even affects our travel destinations, deliberately avoiding locations like New York City in August.
I avoid situations based on earlier experiences in my life. Unfortunately, these avoidances are not limited to the temperature. Unpleasant experiences in my past have unfairly colored and prejudiced my expectations about many things, including cities, brand names, and occupations. For others, scorn and prejudice may extend to groups of people.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah 1:1-3 (ESV)
The Ninevites were a notoriously cruel and vicious nation whose atrocities would even horrify today’s jaded generation. The last thing Jonah wanted to do was to preach a message of repentance and forgiveness by God’s love. No, he disobeyed and headed in the opposite direction. God taught the prophet Jonah an important lesson by forcing him to confront his prejudices against the people of Nineveh. It took the harrowing experience of being swallowed alive by a great fish to begin the healing and transformation.
Are there Ninevites in my life? I am ashamed to admit that I have deliberately avoided certain groups of people because of past prejudices. This is not God’s plan nor is there anything praiseworthy about this attitude. Intolerance toward any group of people, religion, or culture is unacceptable. God has changed my heart and by placing me in many situations to show the sinful narrowmindedness of my past prejudices. Salvation and eternal life are open to all who confess and repent of their sins and place their trust and faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.