Let me begin with a story most of you have heard before.
It is found in the Book of Jonah. How many of you think back on his life and remember only a whale? Me too. Until I read it again. And again. Somewhere between the 5th to late 3rd century B.C., God commissioned Jonah to go to Ninevah – a great city in Assyria (present day Iraq, Turkey, Iran, + Syria) whose people were committing some awful crimes and sins (pretty wicked and heinous stuff; what we are all capable of outside of the will of God).
Anyway. Jonah says, “Heck no, I am not going over there. These people are scary, and I am not going to point my finger and tell them of their sins.” And he runs from God to another city, refusing to obey.
We all know what happens then. God causes a tumultuous storm, Jonah is overthrown into the violent seas, and he is swallowed by a whale for three days. When Jonah is spewed from the belly of the whale after fervent prayer and repentance to God, he washes up on the shores of Ninevah. Go figure.
Many people stop reading here, believing the one true message is this: you cannot run from God, His purposes always prevail, and He is forgiving and merciful. All of these are true. However, I want to call your attention to the end of the story.
All along God was determined to get his message to the Ninevites. Just as He is still concerned about getting His message across to every lost sinner. Jonah, a believer in God, had no concern for these people. And most times, we don’t either. We are saved and in God’s graces, so we are golden. How selfish. How unlike Jesus.
In fact, after the Ninevites heard Jonah’s message and repented of their sins, and God showed mercy and compassion on them, Jonah was so angry that he wanted to die. He even went so far as to complain to God about His grace and mercy, slowness to anger, and steadfast love. The very gifts God surely bestowed on Jonah, himself. Jonah did not think the Ninevites deserved forgiveness after all they had done. They deserved punishment.
But so did Jonah. And so do we.
“Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said , ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also so much cattle?'”
God’s heart is to call back His creation full of sinners and restore relationship and bring healing to the world. Do our hearts mirror that? Or are we busy hating our neighbor who is Muslim, African American, Homosexual, Homeless, Feminist, Abortionist, White Supremacist, Blue Collar, Democrat, Republican, Hispanic, the list goes on.
We can hate all day long, or we can recognize that every single person we meet on this earth is just like us – desperately in need of a Savior.