Most people know the story of Jonah. He was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel and God called him to go to Nineveh and to tell them to repent. Jonah didn’t want to go so he boarded a ship and went in the exact opposite direction. Why would Jonah react in such a way?
Up until this calling Jonah had been prophesying to Jeroboam II, the current kind of Israel. And through the work of the Lord Israel had expanded its territory back to what it was during the time of King Solomon (2 Kings 14:23-27). Who was the enemy during that expansion? Assyria. And their capital city? Nineveh.
Assyria certainly was not known for the diplomacy and softness.
“This was the largest empire yet seen in the world; and it got there using a new military weapon: terror. The Assyrian army was notorious for its brutality, and the Assyrians themselves made sure their enemies knew about their reputation. Their powerful bows, battering rams, and archers on horseback were also effective; but mutilation of prisoners, resettlement of whole populations, and a general rejoicing in butchery were what their victims told others about. Assyrian kings bragged in stone about their atrocities.”
Now Jonah is commanded by God to go to the capital city of the enemy and preach against it.
What would you do if…
…God asked you to go preach repentance to the members of ISIS?
…He gave you a message of forgiveness to Boko Haram?
…Jesus said that “My blood covered the atrocities of September 11th. Now go and tell them.”
The end of the story shows Jonah preaching the message (after a brief stay in the belly of a fish) he was told to give and Nineveh repents! And then how does Jonah respond? He sits outside of the city pouting!
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. – Jonah 4:2-3
I think if we were honest most of us would have a very similar reaction as Jonah. There is obvious fear of going to areas of the world where children are being kidnapped and we are seeing the greatest human migration in Europe since World War II¹. There is also a level of hatred towards these groups that have and are still committing unimaginable acts of violence and death. Like Jonah I think our prayers would sound something like this:
“God, I don’t want you to offer forgiveness to those people. Because I know if I do, and they repent, you will relent from sending calamity.”
What do we do with these feelings of fear, anger, and hatred? We must lay them at the foot of the cross! We have to know what the gospel says to enemies – like us.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Colossians 1:21-22 (emphasis added)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above…you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice…Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:1, 8, 12
Praise God that His character is one that relents from calamity! Tweet
As we begin to understand the depth of what Jesus has done for us at the cross, only then will we be able to “love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us” as Christ commanded (Matthew 5:44). Why not start that today? Let us begin to pray for our enemies. Pray for those who persecute our brothers and sisters. Instead of looking on them with fear and anger, let us see them with compassion knowing they are like sheep without the Great Shepherd.
We never know what might happen if another terrorist were to encounter Jesus.