Before you criticize Jonah too severely, put yourself in his place. God
commanded him to preach to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. Assyria
was a fierce and dreaded enemy of Israel. I could make you nauseous with
details of the Assyrians’ cruelty to their enemies. The worse the pain they
could inflict and the longer they could make it last, the better they liked it.
No doubt Jonah would have been happy for God to wipe them from the face of the
earth. Good riddance!
How would you react if God told you to go preach to Pyongyang (North
Korea, ruled by Kim Jong-un)? Or to Kabul (Afghanistan, ruled by the Taliban)?
Or to ISIS in parts of Syria? Jonah’s assignment had much in common with those.
Jonah was wrong to disobey God. Let there be no doubt about that!
Jonah’s nationalism kept him from understanding God’s love for even the worst
of sinners. God’s nature doesn’t change. Today He isn’t willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9); that was true in
Jonah’s day too. The sheer ignorance of the Assyrians didn’t excuse their
hideous abuses, but it did result in the Lord being longsuffering with them
even as He was with Israel and still is with us.
Can you love people who hate you and would be all too happy to kill you
if they could? Jesus prayed for the very people who were mocking and murdering
Him. A few weeks later His blood cleansed some of them from their sins!
God loves the good and the evil, the just and the unjust, His love is
perfect (complete, mature, Matthew 5:43-48). It’s nothing special to love those
who love you (v. 46). But loving your enemies makes you like God.
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com