Jonah’s message was only five words long.
In Hebrew, I mean. In English it stretches a bit. That’s an excellent word-to-action ratio however, whichever language you look at it in.
According to Jonah 3, the overturning transformed things. A dramatic change in behaviour throughout the city led to God changing his plans. Lots of about turns.
You might have your own five word horror story. Did you ever join in some meeting, nervously sipping bad coffee and fiddling with a sweaty pen before the leader turned to you and said brightly,
‘tell us something about yourself’
and the ground did not open up beneath you and the entire story of your life fizzed out of your memory? Fun times.
Or perhaps you found yourself driving in some remote State of America and spotted this:
…which, according to the chap in orange you just picked up, is just fake news, y’all.
Five words can spell disaster. Most disasters don’t need many words to be conveyed. Bad news punches hard. But – and this is my point – five words can also be used for good. Five words can turn things around.
I gave a talk on this topic this week and tried to come up with ideas.
‘Tell me how you’re doing’
seemed to me a universal way of checking in with someone, valuing them and being ready to listen and support. We all need this from time to time.
Other ideas included connecting spiritually:
‘Let me pray with you’
‘Are you free on Sunday?’
A lovely friend messaged me to say that:
‘How can I practically help?’
were her powerful five words. And she meant it. She is a kind and generous person who loves to support people.
Compassion is not cheap, and neither is grace.
Five words –
like five well chosen stones –
or five loaves of bread –
can go a long way when they are used for good purposes.
For God’s purposes.
Who is God asking you to listen to?
Who is God sending you to?
What five words are going to change you – and perhaps those you meet?