Scripture: Jonah 4:
1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, "Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
Observation: God calls us to love each other, even those we don’t agree with, especially those we don’t like.
Application: This little story about Jonah is told time and time again to us as Children. We all learn in some of our earliest years of Biblical instruction about how Jonah tried to flee and was swallowed by the whale and how he eventually relented to God’s will and agreed to obey, and how at that point he was spared by being spat back up onto the shore so that he could preach to the people of Nineveh. The moral we are told is “No matter where you go, you can’t run away from God.” It’s a great story, and a good moral for us to understand, but I think that there are aspects of the story that are good teachings for us beyond the childhood Sunday School rooms, there are some good lessons for the world we live in today and especially the dominate culture that I see in America.
Although Jonah was saved from the whale, and the people of Nineveh repented, still the story has some tragic points and in the end I feel very sad for the reluctant prophet because he never overcame his own anger and hatred. As you know, there had been a lot of strife between Jonah’s people and the people of Nineveh. There had been fighting, and killing, and crimes against each other. The last thing Jonah wanted to see was forgiveness for them. He longed for the destruction and hoped that they wouldn’t listen to his preaching. But they did, and God had mercy on them. So here in our scripture we have Jonah, angry at God for making him take part in the salvation of these people that he despised.
God’s will was accomplished in Nineveh but I think that God was trying to bring Jonah to a higher place that (as far as we know from the scriptures) he was never able to get to. God was trying to teach Jonah that we are all part of His creation, we all belong to God, and He loves us all, and wants us to experience that love for ourselves.
People that we consider as enemies are also part of God’s creation. We tend to group them all together and paint them as a singular manifestation of evil, a heresy to be stomped out and destroyed. From our point of view its us against them, but from God’s point of view its just us fighting among ourselves. These enemies have different names and faces, they are people of different nationalities, people of different faiths and religions, people of different lifestyles. And many of us who are people of faith and people of God, would if we could line them all up, march them out of the city and stone them to death to rid the world of these who we see as outsiders and enemies.
Violence is never the way, intolerance is never the way, and hatred of any person, or group of people is never a good thing. Being tolerant of others doesn’t mean we have to condone everything they do, but it means we have to accept them for who they are, and allow God to mold them into something different if that is His will. We are to be agents of love, agents of mercy and forgiveness and peace. Far too often we square off for the big fight against the forces of evil, without realizing that in doing so we take into ourselves the very things that make people evil. The things that you fight so hard against, you get more of in life, because you take them into yourself.
If we could lay aside our differences and learn to live in love and respect for one another, we would see the true enemy (the devil) bound in chains and locked away so that we could live in peace and harmony with God. Fanciful dreaming you say? Wishful thinking, it can never happen? I say it can, if we would just learn to stop fighting, and start loving as God loves.
Don’t hate the Ninevites, God loves them as much as He does you!
Prayer: Lord of us all,
Grant me the ability to love those who oppose me and to minister to the world through your grace and mercy, through your understanding and acceptance. Keep my feet planted firmly in your love and guide me into an understanding that I can only experience love from you as I show that love to others, even those I don’t agree with.
Yield: I have no right to be angry, when God is being merciful. And He is ALWAYS merciful.