The Gospel According to Jonah

humpback-whale-1033975_640I want revenge. Reprisal. Accountability. Comeuppance. Answerability. Retribution.

It’s hard for me to admit that but it’s true.

If I’ve chosen to follow the rules, made sacrifices to be obedient, then I want those who haven’t been obedient to suffer the consequences. I don’t like people getting away with stuff. I believe in rules, standards, and laws. I like order. I respect those who live within parameters that make the world safe, productive, and conducive to healthy living.

When I see people suffer because of other people’s choices, it eats at me. Especially when those who suffer are children. When children hurt, I want someone to answer for that. That sounds like wisdom, doesn’t it? And, it’s not wrong, it’s just incomplete.

When we swear in as witnesses in court, we swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s powerful. The truth is that all of us should be (and will be) called to account for our actions. The truth is that if we hurt children, we will answerable. This is the truth but it isn’t the whole truth.

Jesus brought with Him the whole truth.

In my line of work, I hear a lot of people express frustration, desperation, and rage. I hear their desire for revenge, accountability, answerability, comeuppance.

People should have to get a license to have children!

Some people shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce.

Someone should yank those children away from her.

He should lose all his rights to his kids.

Harsh but understandable judgements. Spoken from broken hearts trying to help broken children. They are words that have the appearance of wisdom. Children deserve to be safe and we must protect them. Sometimes it’s necessary to separate children from their parents forever.

Grownups demand accountability. Grownups reward right behavior and punish wrong choices. Grownups execute judgement.

Children, though, children see these situations through different eyes. Even children over eighteen, want something else. I heard it best once from an eleven-year-old.

Mom: That’s it. I’m taking his father to court and he’s never going to see his son again.

Son: Mom, no. I’m safe now but you don’t need to go that far.

Mom: Don’t you want to see your dad punished? Don’t you want someone to hold him accountable for his actions? Isn’t that what you really want?

Son: No! Don’t you understand? What I want is for him to change so he can love me. That’s what I really want.

It’s not that this boy couldn’t see what his dad deserved. It’s not that he wasn’t angry. It’s not that he wanted to stick around and be hurt. It’s not that he didn’t want to be safe. What he didn’t want was permanent separation, no opportunity for change, an irreparable breach, a conclusion to a relationship that held the promise of a lifetime.

locker-820088_640What he didn’t want was to close the door forever to love.

I see this in parents with wayward children, too. At times, they must resort to drastic consequences for wrong choices, send them away, rat them out, call the police, or testify against their own child. This is never, however, what they want. Usually, they only employ these actions when they’ve exhausted all other options and now believe the only pathway, the only chance their child has for change is threat of judgement and separation.

It is never what their parents want. What their parents want is for their children to change, to make wise choices, to love again.

Too many of us live by the gospel of Jonah. We testify to God’s truth and when others don’t choose to obey, we sit back and wait for God’s judgement on them.

God wants more from us than that. He wants us to demonstrate the truth but He wants it to be the whole truth. The whole truth is that He loves us and what He wants, what He truly wants, is for us to repent and to reenter a loving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

When my heart cries out for justice, for revenge, for accountability, for comeuppance, Jesus says, “Look at the cross. There it is. If that is enough to satisfy my Father’s judgement, it should also be enough for you.”

This sets me free to love the unlovable because He loved me when I was unloveable.

Peter lived through days of severe persecution. He lost loved ones in the name of Jesus. He suffered until terrible oppression, injustice, and the constant threat of martyrdom. Surely Peter, who is so like us, must have longed for accountability and judgement to come! Still, the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write this: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 ESV

Judgement will come but if we are to bear witness to godliness then we should be like God. Love does the unbearable hard work of holding out hope for those who repeatedly make wrong choices. Love does the unbelievably hard work of setting boundaries for safety while continuing to keep an open heart in case the oppressor repents. Love does the impossibly hard work of living inside the whole truth of a grace that lays down its life for those who deserve to die. Grace that suffers. Grace that bleeds. Grace that speaks forgiveness with a mouth full of gravel and dust.

Jesus is not sitting beside the Jonah’s on the hillside waiting for the fire of heaven to rain down. He’s living in the heart of that eleven-year-old boy crying out, “No! What I really want is for them to repent so they can know My love!”

Have you been living in the gospel according to Jonah? Come back to the whole truth, come back to love.

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1 Comment

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  1. Jonah is the one Biblical character I can totally relate to. I volunteered for Vietnam in 1967 in and effort to run from God, two years later on April Fool’s Day I not only found myself back in Germany, but in the same barracks, the same room and the same bed. I finally quit running and told him my life was his and when he called I would do whatever he wanted. It took awhile for me to understand what he had in store for me, but there is not doubt in my mind that God says what he means and means what he says. Jonah converted the whole city of Nineveh preaching God’s Word. He knew it would do so. While I love Jesus and his message, I also know he spent his whole last night on earth warning us of what is coming. Sometimes I get so focused on that message that, as they say, “I am so heavenly minded, I am no earthly good.” I traveled America for twenty years traveling America’s highways and byways. Then in January of 2004, I had the big one. I felt I had come up short, but that is when I really learned what God is all about. In July 2003 my youngest daughter, Glenda found out she had a brain tumor. she fought it for seven years. Thanks to the big one I was able to spend those years with her and find out what Faith is really about. God does prepare our paths and gives us direction, we just need to know that there is purpose and direction in all he does, even if we don’t see it at the time. Another daughter of mine,Angelica, encouraged me to start a blog and it has been an adventure. Now I can share what God has done in my life and hopefully give somebody the understanding that regardless what happens God is in charge of the details. The only thing I got that Jonah did not seem to get is that I am no more worthy of saving than the people of Nineveh were, but by God’s Grace and Mercy I am and will be. I really enjoyed your post Lori, I almost always do, even when my toes are sore after reading them..