March 4, 2011
A Jonah Moment
By Ryan Duncan
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. - Mark 11:25
Last week I had a Jonah Moment. I was on Facebook, e-mailing some old friends, when I noticed a message posted on one of the walls. A guy I knew from school had just been admitted to the hospital, and though it wasn't anything serious, he had still sent out a Facebook post asking for prayers in the days ahead. Now, this guy and I had never gotten along, and I'm ashamed to say that my first thought after reading the post was "Ha, you deserved that."
A day later, I was reading my Bible when I came across the story of Jonah. Most Christians probably learned this story in Grade School. They'll remember how God commanded Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah, hating Nineveh, tried to sail to Tarshish instead. God then sent a great fish to swallow him and deliver him to the city. Look at what's written in the very last chapter of the book.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?" Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.
When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live." But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die." But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" - Jonah 4:1-11
We Christians usually give Jonah a lot of grief for not following God's commands, but the truth is we aren't much different. Like Jonah, I had let my pride and my past feelings get in the way of my duty to God.
God does not allow us to carry old grudges, and if we think becoming a Christian means Christ will beat up on our enemies, we will be sorely disappointed. Instead, Jesus has commanded us to live in harmony with our Christian Brothers and Sisters, and forgive those who have sinned against us. After all, that's what Christ did for us.
Intersecting Faith and Life
Is there anyone in your life you feel anger towards? Take some time to pray about it, and seek peace with God.