Monday, August 24, 2015

The heart of Jonah and the heart of God

The day was extremely hot and muggy. It was the kind of day that makes me regret only owning a push mower, a decision I made under the pretext of forcing myself to get more exercise. So there I was two weeks ago, dripping and grunting my way back and forth across my lawn, when a strange "ka-chunk!" came from beneath my mower.

Oh great, I thought to myself, I've run over one of my daughter's toys. But as I pulled the mower back and killed the blade, my stomach sank. Instead of a mangled mass of cheap Disney plastic, I saw fur and blood. As I crouched to investigate, small squeaks began emerging from what was clearly a shallow rodent's den. They were so young that I still don't know whether they were rabbits or something else but as I pulled them out, each was bloody and dying.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five. Five helpless animals that I knew had no hope of survival. Their nest had been destroyed. Their mother would not return. Two were already dead from the shock and trauma of the mower and the other three were close behind. As I deliberated how to most humanely dispose of the other three, tears began to form in my eyes. I've always been a bit of an animal lover, but the mingling of guilt and pity that was welling up inside surprised me.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. God nudged me and reminded me of the story of Jonah—not the part we all read about in the kiddie Bibles, but the very end of the book. After God had mercy on the people of Nineveh, Jonah sulked outside the city waiting and hoping for God to change his mind and—as my pastor would say—"bring the whomp" on the city. As he stewed, God caused a plant to grow up that gave shade to Jonah, and then just a quickly caused a worm to come and kill the plant. At this, Jonah's attitude soured all the more. And in God's response to Jonah, I heard him speaking to me as well:
“You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left?" (Jonah 4:10-11a)
Jonah's response to the plant's death was pity and anger, mine was pity and sadness. But I immediately knew that God's charge against Jonah was equally true against me. I grow calloused and comfortable with the lostness around me. I get so caught up in the day to day, the mundane routine of my own life, and I forget that hell is an ever-present threat and reality for billions across the globe and in my own neighborhood.

In all the talk of church, it's easy to get caught up in systems and strategies, programs and podcasts, books and buildings. And all these things are good, but what are we doing to impact the lostness around us? Do we even notice it anymore? All too often, I know I don't. I celebrate that God has saved me from the stomach of the proverbial whale, but I forget that God not only saved me out of something but also to something:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) 
We have been given the ministry and message of reconciliation, we are representatives of Christ in this foreign country. Will we sit outside the city grumbling about our comforts, or will we run into the city with this plea: "Be reconciled to God."?

1 comment:

Carol said...

Powerful! Thank you.

I, too, need to pray for more of a "God" heart to replace my "Jonah" heart.