Today we reach the conclusion of the book of Jonah and our six-part series. Over the weeks we’ve explored the difficult struggle Jonah faced when God offered forgiveness and mercy to Israel’s (and therefore Jonah’s) violent and corrupt enemies. I praise God that such an easily relatable book was included for our benefit and growth for I have also struggled at the idea that I am just as bad as some of the people I read about in the Herald Sun (or more commonly now in my newsfeed online.) We are habitually self-righteous and God continues to challenge this attitude as he did with Jonah.
The Pharisees response to Jesus in Luke 15:1-2 was the same as Jonah’s and it prompted Jesus to tell the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jonah’s reaction was just like theirs. He was just another Pharisee that failed to see the love and value God has for every lost person. This is a danger for us too. If we sit long enough in the Christian world without deeply and regularly reflecting on how wonderful it is that we were once lost but now found and how ignorant we are of the true reality of our sin, we will quickly (or perhaps slowly and unconsciously) join their ranks.
What amazing challenges to us! The compassion of God expressed for the Ninevites he dearly loves and the compassion of his son Jesus who welcomed and had dinner with sinners. It shakes our heads and hearts and encourages us to replace our anger at the injustice and ignorance we see in the world with compassion for the lost things that God loves deeply. Remember, you were once one of those lost things of incredible value.
Should God forgive? Maybe we don’t always want him to, but he’s forgiven us and he wants more lost people to come home to him. Will we help him find them as he’s asked us to? Will we invite the people we struggle with the most to eat with us?