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05.08.20 - Believing or Begrudging?

Have you ever found yourself thinking about someone you've encountered, "I hope they get what they deserve". Perhaps it was someone who mistreated you. Maybe it's someone who you perceive as being evil and beyond saving. Or perhaps it's just someone who you really don't like. Oddly enough, we're given a picture of someone who thinks just like this in the Old Testament.

Read Jonah 4:1-11. So often we read Jonah and think, "Wow! What a miraculous story. A man swallowed up by a fish and survived!" And truly, it is miraculous - a great witness to God's power and sovereignty over all creation. Nevertheless, we can miss the whole point of this story if we get caught up in this first miracle and don't look to the second. After Jonah is spat out by the big fish, he listens to God's command and finally makes his way to Nineveh and proclaims God's message. Despite this, there is something odd about this prophet. Plain and simple, he's grumpy and begrudges his role. He makes it very clear in chapter 4: "I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish [because] I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." Not only does Jonah begrudge his role - he begrudges the very mercy of God! He's angry that God has relented from His anger against Nineveh and has spared them.

Here is the true miracle we find in Jonah: a good God granting grace and mercy to a repentant people. This is the more challenging task. Jesus makes that clear in Matthew 9:5 when he poses the question, "which is easier: to say, 'your sins are forgiven', or to say, 'get up and walk?'" Yet he does both. Romans 5 tells us that it is "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Praise God Jesus wasn't more like Jonah! Despite our own rebellion, our own evil, our own sin, Christ comes and dies for us. Can you sit here and say that you got what you deserved? That you were worthy of that sacrifice? No. None of us truly are. That's the point. That's what Jonah is pointing us toward: to recognize that no one is beyond saving; that God is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love..." A God who has forgiven a sinner like you, and will forgive all whom He has called into repentance, no matter what they've done or who they are. Do you believe that? Or do you begrudge that? Do you find yourself thinking more like Jesus, or Jonah?

Questions for Reflection

  1. Have you ever found yourself wishing that someone "got what they deserved"? Why?

  2. Why is it so dangerous for us as Christians to think this way - to wish judgement upon those whom we perceive to be evil and in the wrong in this world?

  3. Looking to Christ, how can we live by His example of love and humility, and seek to not wish harm upon our enemies, but to love them as Christ has loved us?

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