This week’s Christian Science Bible Lesson tells of Jonah’s flight from God’s command to go and warn the people of Nineveh to repent or face their impending doom. We’re probably all familiar with the first three chapters of Jonah’s story–his disobedience, the storm, the ship’s crew tossing him overboard, his being swallowed by a great fish and spending three days and nights in the belly of that beast, his cry to God followed by God’s mercy, and Jonah’s subsequent release and carrying out his mission. The lessons are both clear and abundant re the necessity of obeying God’s commands as well as experiencing the blessings of repentance.
However, have we thought much about what transpires next in the Bible account of Jonah? The populace of Nineveh repent and God spares them. But is Jonah happy? To the contrary, he’s ticked off.
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
So there it is. Even though he knew what God would likely do, he would rather have seen that city and its inhabitants be wiped away, thereby justifying his own pride and attempting to compensate himself for the troubles he had undergone–troubles that he was entirely responsible for because of his own disobedience to God. If this were a child we were talking about, we might say that Jonah had thrown a tantrum!
But God teaches the hard-headed Jonah another lesson–this time about mercy.
As I’ve thought about this, I’ve found it helpful to ask myself some probing questions—ones that we all might want to consider:
- How often do we expect our efforts in obeying God to result in a particular outcome rather than in the outcome God intends?
- How often are we falling into a Jonah-like frustration when things don’t go according to our concept?
- How often are we hoping that someone who has offended us be punished in some form—even if they have repented and reformed?
- How often are we recognizing that God’s saving grace and mercy are for all—especially during this political season?
- How often are we trying to justify ourselves rather than divinely know ourselves?
If we’re honest, perhaps more so than we’d like to admit.
But we have a choice. We can either succumb to Jonah’s temptation and sit in a frustrated, self-pitying, and vindictive lump, or we can learn the lesson of truly obeying God by blessing others through our moment by moment active healing work—by correctly identifying them as God’s children.
I recommend the latter!