“When God saw what (Nineveh) did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.” – Jonah 3: 10 – 4:1
The story of Jonah is fairly common if you’ve grown up around the church. God called Jonah to go and preach to the largest, most evil and morally bankrupt city of the day — Nineveh. As a well-known enemy of Israel, and frankly, a terrifyingly, cruel people, Jonah wasn’t having it. So, he hopped a boat and fled in the opposite direction. Be sure to read the full story (Jonah 1-4) for all the details of how Jonah learned the hard way that you can’t outrun God.
But let’s focus on the beginning of the story: God’s call for Jonah to reach out to a known enemy. Not only was Jonah terrified at the idea of showing up on their doorstop due to their reputation alone, but he was also a proud of Israelite. And as such, the last thing he wanted to do was reach out to a known enemy. It would be like an American pastor after 9/11 traveling to Afghanistan to share the Gospel of Christ with the Taliban; or a Jewish-American heading to Nazi Germany during WWI with a message of hope in repentance through Jesus Christ. It’s just not a natural response – but it’s God’s response.
What God was teaching Jonah – and all of us today – is that the love, hope, and redemption found in Jesus Christ is available for EVERYONE, regardless of their past. It’s available for a rebellious prophet whose nationalistic pride got in the way of obeying God and for an entire city that committed countless atrocities. That same love is available for you and for me. Why? Because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Now, let’s fast forward to today. Society is more divided than ever; conversations seem to breakdown before they even begin. The worst is assumed, and rather than listening with a posture of learning and believing the best in one another, communication channels shut down. Think I’m exaggerating? Get a family with opposing political or social opinions around the table together and see what happens. Very often it’s either avoidance or anger.
But if we’re going to bridge this divide, then we’ve got to start listening to one another. This doesn’t mean always agreeing but respecting and loving one another as a fellow child of God. “Why bother?” you might ask. Because God isn’t a God of ONE nation, ONE culture, or ONE political party. God is for EVERYONE: every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9).
And the moment we judge another as more deserving of God’s judgement than ourselves, is the moment that, like Jonah, we start running away from God rather than walking with God. If you’ve been struggling to love those who are different or who share different world views, start by asking God for eyes to see them as He does – potential children of God, whom He loves.