There’s a story in the Bible about a man named Jonah. God told Jonah to go to the people of Nineveh. He didn’t want to go so he fled in the opposite direction. God knew that Jonah was avoiding Nineveh so He caused a great rainstorm.
Eventually, Jonah jumped into the water, because he knew that God was causing the storm and it was the only way to make it stop. At this point, Jonah resolved that he is going to die, but God had a different plan for him. A giant fish swims up to Jonah and swallows him whole.
He’s in the belly of the fish for three days. At the end of the three days, the fish vomits him on to dry land and Jonah decides it might be a good idea to travel to Nineveh. Jonah arrives in Nineveh and tells the people about God. The Ninevites repent and begin to move toward God.
It’s a story of rebellion away from God and seeing what can happen when we listen to God.
The last chapter of the book of Jonah always seems to get left out. This is where we learn what Jonah really thought about God’s grace. God’s plan was to destroy the city of Nineveh. Once the Ninevites repent God changes His mind. God’s overjoyed.
God extends grace.
You would think that Jonah would also have this joy. Jonah isn’t excited about this change. Jonah wants the people of Nineveh punished.
The Ninevites were enemies to Jonah and his people, the Israelites. He knew that God was a God of mercy and grace, which is why Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, to begin with. Jonah knew if, given the chance, God would choose forgiveness. God would give grace. Jonah didn’t want forgiveness and grace for the people of Nineveh.
Jonah wanted the city destroyed.
This part is often left out because we are more like Jonah than we like to admit. We love the idea of grace when it comes to ourselves, but grace is much more difficult when it’s given to people who have hurt us, we fear, or have a prejudice toward.
I often treat grace like a game, some win and some lose. Jonah plays this game too. For Jonah, the Ninevites should lose. In God’s game of grace, everyone gets a trophy. Everybody wins.
It’s not my job to decide who wins when it comes to grace because it’s not about winning. It’s actually not even a game at all because, in the end, there are no losers, there’s only broken people filled up with grace. God wants you and me to invite people into His story. Everyone’s in and no one’s left out.
This is why God sent Jonah to Nineveh. Jonah invited the Ninevites into God’s story and they said yes. The book of Jonah teaches us that it’s never too late to start to move toward God. God’s tossing us candy filled grace in this parade of life all we need to look down, pick it up, and unwrap this free gift that is lay in front of us. It’s available to everyone.
Who are Ninevite type people in my life?
Instead of getting pissed, like Jonah, how can we learn to love the grace out of people?
How can I extend God’s grace to all people today?