Mad at God for being God

This past Sunday I heard a message on the story of Jonah: Mr. Second Chance.  It reminded me of a series I taught a few years ago on the book of Jonah. During that series we spent 4 weeks looking at the four chapters of this Old Testament story of a prophet who was more than willing to receive God's grace when it was extended to him but unwilling to accept it when it was offered to those outside his comfort zone. The series was entitled Escape because at its heart that is what grace is: God providing an undeserved escape for us in spite of our sin. The story of Jonah revolves around the idea that God provides a means of escape for a wayward prophet who is trying to "escape" his divine mandate & ultimately God providing a means of escape for a people group who deserved anything but forgiveness and mercy.

The most fascinating part of the Jonah story to me is the last chapter. After God delivered Jonah from certain death (and from himself) and after Jonah witnesses one of the greatest moments of genuine repentance and salvific intervention in Old Testament history, Jonah gets angry at God for providing mercy to people Jonah felt deserved more severe consequences for their actions. In essence, Jonah gets mad at God for being God!

After God informs the prophet that he will spare the Assyrians due to their genuine repentance and His lovingkindness, Jonah basically shakes his fist in God's face and yells, "I knew you would do this! I knew you would show mercy and grace - that's why I didn't want to come. You are a loving God and your nature is to forgive and show grace - and they don't deserve it!"  Jonah is ticked at God for being who God is - the same God who because of who He is just forgave and rescued Jonah himself! It is hard to imagine that the Jonah in chapter 4 is the same Jonah who cried out to God for personal deliverance in chapter 2.

It is ironic how we often resent God for being God. We long for God to show us mercy and grace and forgiveness when we sin, but if and when someone else sins in a manner that is different than our transgression, our natural tendency is to want that person to suffer at some level that we feel is just and fair in our own fallen minds.  If we are honest with ourselves, we want people to face consequences. We want people who sin in certain ways to suffer.  We cringe at the idea of God simply forgiving that person without suffering the consequences we believe they deserve.  There is a Jonah lurking in each of us.

I will never forget when I was in a season of life where because of some sinful choices I made that I needed some people to be Jesus to me whether they agreed with my choices or not. During this time, I had some precious friends who reached out to me and offered me a place to live (without ever approving of my choices). They did it simply because they believed God led them to do so. After all, they wanted to live the type of love they saw modeled repeatedly by Jesus in the Gospels. Yet it was sobering how many Jesus followers, who have experienced undeserved grace at the highest level through the cross, tried to dissuade this couple from providing me a refuge. Well-intentioned yet wounded Christians wanted me to face the consequences they believed I deserved. Yes there is a Jonah lurking in each of us (particularly when we are hurt).

And guess what? I have been guilty of the same attitude. I have found myself desiring punishment over mercy, consequences over grace, rejection over love. I have found myself sitting alongside Jonah in the hillside bleachers overlooking Ninevah mad at God for being God - angry at God for showing mercy when I believed the opposite was due. Yes there is a Jonah lurking inside of me.

Consequences happen with or without my consent. Consequences are a natural by-product of our choices. What God is teaching me is that it is not my job to figure out which consequences are deserved and which are not.  It is my calling to remember that we all deserve judgment and death and instead God offers grace and life. It is my calling to "forgive as Christ forgives me" (quite a monumental calling when you pull back the curtain).

I pray that I can be the kind of Jesus follower who rejoices when God extends grace to those I feel do not deserve it. After all, that's what He does for me!

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