Jonah 3:10-4:2 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. 4 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.
For years, I was taught that Jonah ran away from God’s call because he was afraid of the people of Nineveh. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that Jonah was not afraid of the people of Nineveh, but afraid that God would be gracious to such an evil city and its people. The people of Nineveh were evil to the core and brutal to those they defeated. They beheaded men and stacked the heads outside the city. They skinned people alive and laid the skins on the walls. They impaled men with spears and left them standing for all to see.
The belief is that Jonah did not want the city of Nineveh to repent. Jonah knew that God was gracious and would forgive. So, Jonah ran. I catch myself feeling like Jonah. I watch as many deny God, deny His law, mock His goodness, continue in a life of sin expecting God’s grace to cover, etc. What do I want for those? Many times I want God to smite them with His power and might. I want God to punish and show them who He is. Yet this does not match the Gospels and Jesus teaching that I should go and “make disciples”.
There are certain sins that tend to bother me more than others. Some sins, I have a tolerant attitude toward and have compassion for the “sinner” around. Other sins, however, trigger a strong reaction in me. I will avoid the offender like a plague. Yet, all sin is equal in the eyes of God. All sin separates us from a Holy God. Jesus even pointed out to the Pharisees; those without sin, to cast the first stone. I recognize that many times I am like Jonah and do not want those “sinners” saved. From that recognition, I realize that for much of my Christian life, I have made my morality and judgment my Christianity.
Growing up in this materialistic culture, I have fought the immorality I have observed. I have been hurt by it, jealous of it, and afraid of it. Therefore, I have built this moral life with an attitude that I would not be like “that”. And, out of that self-righteous morality, I have become condescending and judgmental at times. I am not saying that I shouldn’t be moral. I am not saying that I should not hate sin. But, I have built my Christian life off of this morality and not a Spiritual walk. So, am I like Jonah? Do I avoid being Jesus to others because of my morality and judgment? Do I run the other way when God places people in my life that I have strong opinions about their morality?
Where do I go from here? One, I need to learn from Jonah. If God is calling me to face what I have strong feelings about, I am not to run. Look how that turned out for Jonah. God knows best and He loves His children; to the point of giving them a chance to repent. Two, even though my morality is based on Biblical truth and that truth is right, I am to set aside my personal judgment for the sake of the Gospel. The key is to be honest about my opinion without pushing the “sinner” away with a judgmental, self-righteous attitude. I’ve been on a theme lately of loving relationship. Love the person(s), looking past the sin without condoning the sin. All the while, I must realize that my life is full of sin, just different sin.
I am challenged by this balance in order to reach more for Jesus. I am thankful that stories like Jonah are in God’s Word to help me to see my life and how I need to improve.
1. What are some of the sins you cannot stand?
2. How do you handle those whose lifestyle you disagree with?
3. Where do you feel like Jonah when it comes to God’s mercy on others?
4. Where are you like Jonah; running from what God is calling you to do?
5. Pay attention this week to your “sin” triggers. Notice how you feel. Find the source of why that triggers you. Notice whether or not you want to be like Jonah or are willing to step in where God may be calling you. Ask God to show you a clear direction. Take it.
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