August 13, 2011

Loving "Those People"

Jonah 4

“Should I not have concern for the great city … ?”
Jonah 4:11


Who are the people that come to mind when you think of sinners? For Jonah, Nineveh was full of “those people.” Immoral, sinful, rebellious people—people who certainly didn’t deserve God’s grace.

But that’s the odd thing about grace. By its very definition, grace is for undeserving people. Grace is compassion for people who don’t deserve mercy.

When God showed mercy to Jonah, Jonah praised God for his goodness. But when God showed mercy to Nineveh, Jonah got angry with God for going soft on sin. In Jonah’s mind, forgiveness was for worthy people— not for “those people.”

But while Jonah sits on a hill outside Nineveh, God causes a plant to grow and then die. Jonah insists that he has a right to be angry about losing his plant, and that’s when God makes his point. Jonah has more concern for a plant than for a city full of lost souls.

The book of Jonah ends with a piercing question: “Should I not have concern for the great city … ?”

This is a question for all of us. We all know some of “those people”—people who have made a mess of their lives, people who don’t deserve God’s love. Should we not be concerned about them?

Gracious and compassionate God, we treasure your mercy for ourselves, yet we are often reluctant to share your concern for others. Help us to share your compassion for all who are lost. Amen.

About the author — Rob Toornstra

Rob Toornstra has served as pastor of Sunnyslope Christian Reformed Church in Salem, Oregon, since 2006. When not busy with pastoral duties, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Amy, and their three children.

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