Arguably, in one of the most famous “Noes” in scripture, Jonah’s prejudicial biases against the Ninevites initiates a sequence of events that not only jeopardizes Jonah’s personal life, but also the lives of people in relationship with Jonah.
When God tells Jonah, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me,” (Jonah 1:2) the correct answer should have been, “Of course.” However, because Jonah attempts to flee from God by going to Tarshish, physical forces start impeding Jonah from completing his personal desires.
First, a storm erupts threatening everyone on board the ship in route to Tarshish traveling with Jonah creating a spatial barrier (Jonah 1:3). Second, in order to appease the entities believed to be responsible for the storm, Jonah gets thrown overboard (Jonah 1:6-12).
Delivered from an almost sudden death by a big fish/whale, Jonah’s deliverance makes him willing to say, “Yes,” to God (Jonah 1:17). However, what his deliverance does not do is allow him to say move beyond his negative stereotypical views of the Ninevites even after the Ninevites stop being “evil” (Jonah 4:1).
Vividly illustrating the parallels of disobedience to God, Jonah’s complete narrative of calling the Ninevites to repentance (Jonah 1:2), preaching repentance to the Ninevites (Jonah 3), and being gruntled about Ninevites repentance (Jonah 4) leaves modern-day Christians asking, “Are my prejudices impeding me from being faithful to God by serving those God wants me to serve?”
Biases are not inherently bad. Biases are natural products of the human condition that enable us to set preferences and priorities.
A constructive bias is the preference towards love we as disciples of Christ are called to show towards our neighbors. Another constructive bias for Christians is our willingness when confronted by challenges to preference the actions Christ would take in a similar situation instead of the actions others are taking or encourage us to take.
Jesus even encourages certain productive biases in Matthew 6:33, But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Biases become counterproductive when they result in actions that seek to disenfranchise others from inclusion in God’s Beloved Community.
Perhaps, if we as Christ followers examined ourselves, we might discover that a reluctant “Yes” like Jonah’s though better than “No,” when cheerfully embraced draws us not just closer to each other but also closer to God.