A note before you begin - it's a long one!
Thanks to the Veggie Tales movie – Jonah – (Luke watched it often while we were at the lake!) I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reading and studying on compassion and mercy (more on mercy in a different post). It’s amazing to me how one kid’s movie can get the mind going. Of course when it’s all you watch on TV I guess I shouldn’t expect anything different.
Compassion is defined by Webster this way - sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it. I think compassion is something we’re all familiar with; something we think we have a lot of. I have compassion for those folks in the mid west that are dealing with flooding. I have compassion for people in places like the jungles of Africa who have nothing. I have compassion for some very close friends of mine who have recently lost loved ones. It’s easy to have compassion for my brother in law and sister in law who have traveled a long hard road with their sweet premature baby girl! I mean who wouldn’t, right? It’s easy to feel compassionate towards those who we think might have gotten the “short end of the stick” or who we feel are being asked to unjustly go through something hard, but it’s hard to feel compassionate when we think people are getting what they deserve. But what is it that people really deserve?!?!?
Jonah lacked compassion for the Ninevehites. The Ninevehites were an ungodly people for sure and Jonah didn’t want anything to do with them. Here’s the first thing that struck me – I’m really not so different from the people of Nineveh – without the grace of God I would be living just like the Ninevehites… a godless life, nor am I all that different from Jonah, I often don’t want to do things God asks me to do. They seem to hard, or too yucky or honestly sometimes I think I’m too good for what God’s asking me to do.
The Word says in Jonah 3:1 & 2 “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."” This city was important to God, the people were important and God wanted Jonah to go and tell them how much He loved them so they could repent, change their ways and come to God. Jonah didn’t wanna go, so he ran the other way. It took being in the belly of a big fish and God telling him twice to go for him to actually go. Seems silly doesn’t it? We all know we cannot run away from God, right? But how many times (admittedly on a much smaller scale than actually getting in a boat to physically GO away from God) in a day do we “run” from God. I know I do it all that time. Not good! And that makes me as bad as Jonah.
Here’s the next thing that really gets me… and this part I’ve read and reread cause somehow I didn’t remember the end of the story of Jonah (I guess somewhere in all my church days and Christian school days I missed it – sorry Mom and Dad!). It ends like this - Jonah DID go to Nineveh and he DID give God’s message and the people of Nineveh DID repent! Yippee!! People saved, souls going to heaven! Jonah should have been overjoyed, right?!?! Well he wasn’t! You know what he did? He waited outside the city for God to destroy them!!! HOLY COW! How could he still feel like that? After all that God had done for him, all the compassion God had for him, he still sat there in the heat of the Arabian Desert waiting for God to strike them dead. I mean that takes some guts doesn’t it!?!? The man did what God asked, and the people repented right away, without hesitation, and turned to God, and then Jonah still wanted God to destroy them! Then the Word says “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2b) That really hit home for me. I too know – in my head - that God is a God who is gracious and compassionate and yet sometimes I get upset with Him for not doing what I think he should do. The story goes on to say that Jonah gets so mad at God that he asks God to let him die.
What I’ve learned – I am no more deserving of God’s love, salvation or compassion than anyone else! And if God continues to extend his compassion to me, then it’s the least I can do to do the same to others – whom God greatly loves! It’s helping me to see just how much I AM IN NEED of God’s graciousness and compassion in my own life.