The word of the Lord came to the prophet Jonah, and it was not at all what Jonah wanted to hear. “Get up and go to the great city of Ninevah. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are” (Jonah 1:2). The next verse shows how Jonah felt about the very idea of being used by God to bring the people of Ninevah to repentance. “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction.”
Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah because he knew God. He knew about God’s heart of mercy toward wicked Gentiles and his longing that they repent and be saved from judgement. Jonah knew that God would have mercy and bring his enemies to repentance. And Jonah didn’t want them to repent; he wanted them to be destroyed. He selfishly wanted the Israelites to keep salvation to themselves and have their enemies pay for their evil deeds.
What a contrast to the one who was greater than Jonah! While Jonah was selfish, resentful, and unmerciful toward his nation’s enemies, Jesus moved towards his enemies, coming into this sin-filled world with compassion, love and mercy. This is especially good news for us because we were once God’s enemies. In his mercy, Jesus broke through our rebellion to bring us to himself. Paul wrote, “Our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies” (Romans 5:10).
And Jesus wants us to treat our enemies with the same kind of mercy he lavished on us. “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you,” he said (Luke 6:27).
As Jonah came to his senses, he said “My salvation comes from the Lord alone” (Jonah 2:9). Jonah knew that salvation is the Lord’s to give to whomever he pleases. God would rather save then destroy. He shows mercy to whomever he chooses. And we who have received God’s mercy are to be the conduits of God’s mercy to others – even to our enemies.
Often this truth can seem so hard and even impossible at times. But our merciful God is one that makes the impossible – possible. It’s acts like this that can change the world around us.
Prayer – Merciful Savior, I was once a rebel against you and you were merciful to me. I know that you intend for me to share the mercy you have lavished on me with those around me – even those I have seen as my enemies. That is what I want to do. That is who I desire to be – one who has been so changed by the mercy extended to me in Christ that I can’t help but extend your mercy to everyone around me.
Incumbent at St Aidan's Anglican Church,