When Grace is Hard to Swallow
Have you ever had a hard time offering someone mercy and grace? An old boss who gave you grief; a friend who turned their back on you; a family member who walked away when you needed them most; a teacher who shamed you in front of the entire class?… the list could go on and on. No doubt there are plenty of people in our lives who have let us down and need our grace… but we would rather not offer it. Have you ever noticed how much we value receiving grace, but how stingy we are when it comes to offering it?
Jonah had a really hard time with God relenting and showing grace to the despised Ninevites when they repented. He wasn’t expecting God to do that… He was told to warn them of their impending destruction, which he reluctantly did. But when God relented, Jonah was not happy; in fact, he was pretty angry. God challenged Jonah about his anger too when He asked him, 4 …“Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:4
That’s a fair question… and it’s probably one we should ask ourselves; after all, we may not like God showing mercy and grace to some of the folks who have hurt us in the past either. Lord knows, we have a hard time showing them grace. Jonah didn't want anything to do wth God’s compassion; and he sure wasn’t prepared to offer any of his own.
Grace is really hard to swallow when we’re expected to offer it to our enemies. Jesus had an interesting and challenging command for us regarding our enemies, even those who haven’t repented… 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43-44. That’s taking grace to the next level! Have you tried praying for those who have hurt you? Jesus knew that if you can pray for your enemies, then you are already showing them compassion, grace and mercy.
God “provided” some vital lessons for Jonah… God provided him with a leafy plant to shade him from the sun, but He also provided a worm to consume the plant and then a scorching wind that caused Jonah to grow faint (Jonah 4:6-8). Jonah decided he would just as soon die as live. He was done! Why did God give and then take away? God wanted to expose Jonah’s hard heart and his self-centeredness. Jonah cared more about that vine and the shade it provided him than the thousands of people who he wanted and expected God to destroy.
I wonder how much “Jonah” is in us sometimes? Maybe more than we think. The truth is, we serve “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Jonah 4:2b). If you’re a Christ-follower, you know all about God’s grace. Is there anyone in your life right now who needs a little compassion and grace from you?