Any Jonah in Me?
Today’s reading took me through the book of Jonah, the most well known of the minor prophet books in the Old Testament. I think most of you know the story. Jonah is told by God to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and preach to them but he doesn’t want to do it. God creates a fish to swallow him and then Jonah changes his mind and the fish spits him out. He goes to Nineveh, preaches repentance and the people repent and turn toward God. But how does Jonah react? Here is where I want to focus. Let’s read Jonah chapter 4:1-3: But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
What we don’t read is what Jonah might have written to finish out verse 2 after the phrase , “One who relents from doing harm”. Here is what could have been written: “And I am a vengeful, unforgiving person who wants to see others get what they deserve (though I don’t want what I deserve).” Jonah says that God is gracious and merciful but why is he not…and why are we not? We don’t have any place imparting vengeance and wrath on other people. We are not qualified to do this in any way. God loved the people of Nineveh, despite their wicked ways and God loves you and me despite our wicked ways. We can often look at other people in ways that just don’t make sense. For example, many people feel contempt and hatred for the 16 year old Syrian suicide bomber but do you really think that any of our 16 year olds who were raised in poverty, corruption and religious ideology would be any different? I doubt it. Is there anything in the DNA of a Syrian 16 year old that predisposes him to such an action? I don’t think so. Instead of looking on evil and wicked people with disdain, look on them with compassion and love; recognizing that if you had experienced what they have experienced you would probably act the very same way. Be thankful to God that you were raised where you were. Do all you can to expose places like Syria and many other places to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This attitude doesn’t excuse violence and wickedness; but it keeps us looking at other people with compassion and the heart of Jesus Christ….not the heart of Jonah.