Chaplain’s thought for the week

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Chaplain’s thought for the week

Revd Tom considers the question of integrity in the story of Jonah


The theme in the Junior School this week is ‘integrity’, our second core value. Although it can be quite a tricky concept to grasp, I feel our pupils have really understood what it’s all about: ‘It’s doing the right thing, even when no-one is watching you,’ they tell me, or, ‘It’s sticking up for what you believe is right.’

I’ve told the first part of the story of Jonah this week in my reflections on integrity in Chapel: it’s one of my favourite tales in the Old Testament, both for its theological depth and its comic value (well, that’s my take on it, anyway). It’s a quick read, and well worth it if you can find it hidden among the more serious books of prophecy in the Bible.

Jonah is asked by God to go to the wicked city of Ninevah and preach against it, calling the people there to amend their ways. Unlike other prophets of the Hebrew Bible he can’t face the task he’s been given and tries to run away from God! In doing so, he shows a lack of integrity: instead of facing up to his problem, Jonah tries to make it go away by running and trying to hide. He doesn’t live up to what is expected of him as a prophet.

It can be tempting for all of us at times to do the same: rather than having the difficult but necessary conversation, we avoid that person; instead of speaking up for something we know is right, we keep quiet and hope it will go away; we say we’ll do something, but don’t stick by it when it becomes inconvenient for us. Integrity is the quality that means we do the right, even if it’s not the easy, thing – and this is what we want our pupils to grow in at Exeter School.

If you know the story you’ll remember that Jonah gets a second chance. In his escape attempt, he gets on a boat in a bid to get as far away from God as possible. But when a storm blows up, he realises that he can’t get away and that the storm must be from God. The sailors fear for their lives, and at this point Jonah does the right thing: he tells them that the storm has come because of him and if they throw him overboard (!) they’ll be fine.

Hopefully, for you or I, maintaining integrity won’t be as drastic as this…