Last week we finished a series on Jonah at our evening service. As I poured over the passage there was one area that stood out for me; Jonah was happy to receive grace but was broken at the idea of his enemies receiving any. If you remember the passage in Jonah chapter four, Jonah has just finished proclaiming disaster upon Nineveh. When Nineveh doesn’t get destroyed, and even worse, repents and finds forgiveness, Jonah utters the incredible words, “3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
It’s utterly baffling for us to imagine an entire city of 120,000 people turning from their evil ways, repenting, and worshipping God. But it is even more astonishing to think that a prophet of God could be upset about an outpouring of God’s grace. It is not the case that Jonah doesn’t understand God’s grace, he spoke about it at great length in chapter two. From the depths of the sea, he cried out to the Lord and was saved. He understands God’s grace better than most of us as he, a disobedient prophet, certainly deserved death and yet was given a second chance. However, when it comes to the Ninevites he is totally inconsistent. Having received God’s grace himself, he is unwilling to pass it on.
Perhaps that’s the position we start from today, thankful for God’s grace, but in the knowledge that there’s someone who we would struggle to extend that same forgiveness to. I want to encourage you that you aren’t alone in feeling this. We all from time to time find ourselves making enemies, but the key is to use Jesus as the example to overcome those initial feelings of anger, frustration and sometimes even hatred. If whilst you are reading this there is someone who comes to mind who you can’t stand the idea of meeting in heaven, why not take a moment and pray about your feelings, asking God to help you to forgive.
With this in mind, we pray for the Good News of Jesus to go forward into all areas of society, yes, even those we would rather avoid. May God give us the grace to be gracious towards those people we find most difficult.