Our Devotion for Tuesday, March 28, 2023 is taken from: Amazing Grace Devotions for Lent by Michael Hoy.
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Jonah 3:10 NRSV
GRACE FOR ENEMIES
God sent a very reluctant Jonah to the people of Nineveh to call them to account and repent for the evil deeds. Jonah’s avoidance of this mission was not because he did not find this message unwarranted or unappealing. On the contrary, Jonah suspected that God was a gracious God who might, in fact, deal mercifully with them and forgive them for their wrongs if they repented. And that is exactly what happened.
But Jonah’s actual reaction to God’s goodness is illuminating. God did show mercy to Jonah, yet Jonah in his humanity, in the reality of that moment, found himself feeling angry that the same mercy he was given was also given to the arguably much more evildoing Ninevites who now were repentant. Like Jonah, we once were against God, too, even running away from God in our sin, until we were restored through the mercies of Christ in his death and resurrection. So Jesus Calls us to give up all hatred and animosity toward others and to grace our enemies with love, no matter what they have done, as we have been so immeasurably graced and loved through him.
The most difficult spiritual disciplines for Christians to master are forgiving those who have wronged us and showing compassion for those we deem sinful. The story of Jonah illustrates the resistance and reluctance we offer God when God calls us to show compassion and be forgiving. Jonah was so opposed to offering the Ninevites God’s word of repentance that he attempted to travel as far away from Nineveh as he could. Even after relenting and ultimately going to Nineveh, Jonah was disappointed that God show the Ninevites compassion when they repented.
Didn’t God know who “they” were? Didn’t God know “they” were beyond reclamation, restoration and repentance? Didn’t God know how much “they” hurt and disrespected him? Jonah had become so consumed with self-righteousness, anger and judgement that he had forgotten the compassion God had shown him. We like Jonah have a hard time extending to others the very grace, compassion, and forgiveness we seek and receive from God. We allow our perceptions, prejudices, personal preferences, and over inflated pious self-images to cloud our ability to see ourselves in others. Matthew 18:23-34 recounts Jesus telling the parable of the unmerciful servant, emphasizing the importance of offering others the same grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion we ourselves receive.
Jesus underscores the importance of the principle of forgiveness when he offers his disciple’s a model for prayer, we know today as the Lord’s prayer. In each variation of the Lord’s prayer, there is a contingent phrase: forgive us our sins/debts/transgressions as we forgive those who sin/are indebted/transgress against us. Jesus makes the point clear, our ability to be forgiven is directly linked to our ability to forgive. I’m sure Jonah did not have this premise in mind as he complained about God’s compassion toward Nineveh, much like we don’t have it in mind when we resolve not to forgive or show compassion. As maturing people of faith, we need always wrestle with the tension of being forgiving and compassionate to those we deem underserving, being fully aware, that we our underserving of God’s forgiveness and compassion. As we move toward Holy Week, let us resolve to continue the process of spiritual maturity, especially in the areas of forgiveness and compassion.
Lord, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4 NRSV). Amen.