I grew up in a church. My family was one that was in church any time the doors were open. We were in children’s choir, youth group, puppeteering, even clowning. *** My exposure to all things Jesus included all the best Bible stories. And there were some weird ones. Daniel hung out with some lions, Jesus turned water into wine. Kind of cool. And of course I knew Jonah and the whale. Or I thought I did. And then my friend Danielle delivered me a sermon.
In case you aren’t familiar, I’ll catch you up to speed.
So Jonah was a prophet of God, and God wanted him to go to Ninevah, which was the heart and soul of wickedness. They skinned their enemies and cut out their tongues, they terrorized the countryside, and they probably didn’t even wipe their sweat off the stationary bike at the gym. They were all around bad dudes and dudettes. And God wanted them to know it. Text messaging hadn’t been invented yet, except for that one time with some stone tablets on Mount Sinai, so God told Jonah to get a move on and tell the bad guys that God was going to shake things up if they didn’t change their ways. And Jonah said no.
Here’s the part I didn’t understand. Jonah said no, not because he was afraid he would be skinned, detongued, and forced to sit through spin class in a puddle of someone else’s sweat. He didn’t want to go because he didn’t want God to forgive them.
See, Jonah knew God. He knew his goodness and his mercy and that God kept his word. And if God keeps his word, that would mean that if the bad guys said sorry and meant it, God was going to forgive them. FORGIVE THEM! And Jonah basically said in his head “Are you kidding me? God wants me to share heaven with these heathens? Yeah, no thanks!” So he jumped on board a ship to Joppa, which is, like, a gajillion miles away in the opposite direction. Because we can hide from God and all, right?
As I sat in the sermon, God hit me over the head with a giant, soggy fish. Danielle was preaching to ME. And God and I had a chat.
God: Yo, Jonah.
Me: That’s not my name.
God: Might as well be. Hey, how ’bout handing out some of that forgiveness I’ve given you?
Me: But, they… I mean… what about… Okay, NO.
God: Seriously? Do it.
Me: But they –
God: Do it.
Me: But when-
God: *facepalm* Kid, Imma say this slowly so you can understand. You don’t deserve grace. But I gave it to you, right?
Me: Right, but-
God: You’re a sinner.
Me: I got that, but they –
God: Who forgave those sins?
Me: Um, you, but-
Me: You. You forgave my sins.
God: You’re a sinner. They are sinners.
Me: You got that right! Do you know what they –
God: *sigh* Let me explain it another way. You don’t deserve grace any more than they do. And they certainly don’t deserve it any less.
God – Hello?
God: I’m glad we had this little talk, aren’t you?
And here’s the beauty of it. I AM glad we had that talk. Because it has changed me. Suddenly, I could let go of that perceived slight. I didn’t worry over someone’s misdeeds because I, too, had been given a gift that I didn’t deserve. I fall short of God’s glory, and He gets that. He’s got grace in abundance and stands in the gap for me, and if he will do it for me in all my brokenness, who am I to stand in the way of other people receiving the same gift? So I say thanks and move on when I didn’t think moving on was even a possibility. God is good that way.
Have you ever felt like the message (from sermon, book, movie, music video, etc) was directed at you?
***Don’t knock it. We were paid $10 an hour in the 80s to don the clown suit and
terrorize entertain children at picnics and such.