Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Jesus Where'er Thy People Meet"1 (Lyrics)
Jonah 4:2b – I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (NIV)
As I was reading the fourth and last chapter of the book of Jonah, I started thinking about how much like Jonah we all tend to be.
Jonah was upset at the fact that the people of Nineveh did not get punished for their sins the way that he decided that they ought to be. Jonah knew that God was gracious and compassionate, but when God saved the people of Nineveh (which was His prerogative), Jonah was angry with God for being such a good God, who was (and is) willing to forgive and care about those whom Jonah felt did not deserve such. Never mind that God had bestowed the same kind of forgiveness and goodness upon Jonah after he had rebelled (sinned) against God, and had cried out for help while he was in the belly of the great fish. God gave him a second chance!
That also reminded me of the occasion when Peter asked Jesus if we need to forgive others seven times when they have sinned and hurt us. "Seventy times seven" was Jesus' answer (Matthew 18:21-22 KJV), meaning over and over and over again, ad infinitum.
That in turn led me to us: How often are we willing to forgive? How much do we want to punish those who hurt us? Are we willing to give people second chances? But more importantly, how often do we hand our hurts over to God only to take them back? We may enjoy the "pleasure" of dwelling on the hurt and any possible response, or we may feel that He isn't fixing it fast enough or the way that we want. How often do we take something into our own hands, because we want to fix it, and fix it now? And what do we mean by fixing? Letting them have a piece of our mind? Getting even? Even if there were vengeance to be had, is it really up to us?
Romans 12:19 – Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (KJV)
Whether we want it to or not, might that repayment mean forgiveness? Isn't that how God repays us when we repent?
Do we really have the right to get angry at God for repaying someone else the same way that He repays us, for bestowing the same kind of love and forgiveness on others as He bestows on us?
Jonah forgot that he, too, was just as sinful and rebellious as the people of Nineveh, and he didn't deserve God's goodness either. But aren't we all like that? If we are honest with ourselves, don't we want to lash out at others who hurt us? But how do we feel when others lash out at us when we have hurt them? We want them to forgive us, but do we want to do the forgiving?
News flash: God understands! He knows that it is a struggle for us to forgive and to turn it over to Him. But isn't that exactly what He wants us to do: to keep forgiving and turning it over to Him, once, twice, a hundred times, ad infinitum? What God does not want is for us to avenge ourselves. He wants us to let go and to let Him take care of it and us, over and over and over … and He will help us do so if we but ask, over and over and over … .
Prayer: Lord, remind us that we are all sinners before You, and that none of us deserves the love or grace or forgiveness that You bestow upon us, over and over and over … . Grant us the willingness to ask for and accept Your help so that we, too, may do as You would do: forgive, over and over and over … . Continue to teach us as You taught Jonah and Peter, and help us to be the ones that You created us to be: like Your Son, Jesus. Thank You! In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.