This semester I have had to learn about the person of Jonah. Two of my three classes had books or assignments that were dedicated to this man about whom we really don’t have a much information. In the words of the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan, “In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.” I tend to agree with him in this as well as in coincidences. I think that exploring the book of Jonah this semester was no accident and I hope these insights help us to become more like Christ.
I find Jonah to be this unique character in which we see both the bitterness of man and the compassion of God magnified. I mean think about it, Jonah KNEW that God wanted to save the Ninevites (the capital of Assyria). I mean think about it this way, if you combined the evilness of Sauron, Emperor Palpatine, and Voldemort into one entity, Assyria would still be worse. Of course Jonah ran! In this though, we are given a glimpse into the beautiful compassion of who God is, that not matter where you come from he still actively seeks you out. It is the redemption of the enemy, turning away from what is evil and to what is good. Redemption stories are the best stories in the world, because through it we see that what was once lost can be found…kind of like what Jesus did for us, see what I did there?
I’ve noticed a lot of bitterness in my own heart over the last few months. I mean let’s be honest, it has been a stressful year (2016 is going on record as one of the worst years of the century and we are only 16 years in). I am tempted to say forget it, go curl up on my couch, grab a cup of coffee, and watch Netflix until it all blows over. We cannot do this though, we cannot give into bitterness or sink into our own little world. Take a look at Jonah chapter four. Here we see that God has spared Nineveh because they repented. Jonah goes outside the city and tells God that he is so angry that God spared them that he would rather die. God does three things, first he appoints a plant to shade Jonah. I imagine that Jonah is pretty surprised at this point that God would send a plant to shade him. During the night, God appointed a worm to kill the plant and then that day God appointed a scorching wind to beat down on Jonah. Here we see God trying to soften Jonah’s heart through three different methods but Jonah misses the point. Instead, Jonah once again wished he could die but God rebuked him by saying, “Do you feel more compassion for a plant than for this entire city?” I love the way the writer ended this chapter, because we don’t get to see Jonah’s answer. Instead, we as the reader or the listener have to answer that question ourselves. Do we care more for our own comfort than for the lives of the people around us? Let me challenge us a little bit more, do we care more for our comfort than for the lives of the LGBTQ, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the refugee? Now that we have this information, what are we going to do with it?
I cannot say that I have the answers as to how we should respond to a given situation. But I can say this, the book of Jonah gives us the opportunity to ponder where our priorities lie. Let us be men and women of God who are defined by compassion for the brokenhearted, for the oppressed, for the traveler, and for those around the world. God does not discriminate based on who we think should be saved, his incredible love is for the entire world.