My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”
What if the people of Nineveh had taken Jonah’s opinion of them as being God’s opinion of them??
I heard a sermon the other day that mentioned Jonah and how he really didn’t have a great opinion of the people of Nineveh. I usually don’t get too much out of sermons (blame it on my job. When you sit through 2 or 3 church services every Sunday, you kinda start tuning out the sermon and doing something a little more fun – such as analyzing the hymns – instead of paying attention). But this sermon for some reason got me thinking.
Eh, maybe it wasn’t just the sermon. The truth is, I had already been thinking a lot about the difference in God’s opinion of us versus human opinion of us.
Doggone it. I guess it’s time for me to get personal. I wasn’t planning on doing that quite this early on in our correspondence, even though you are a “kindred spirit” and a “safe place” I can talk to.
So… I very recently went through a rather difficult personal situation.
(Yes, ok, fine. It was a relationship that didn’t work out. Woohoo, you figgered it out! Good grief… Sometimes you’re too smart for your own good! 😛 ).
Anyway, after going through that, I had (have, to be honest) been struggling with feeling… well… worthless. You know. “Damaged goods.”
Please stop rolling your eyes.
This feeling wasn’t just a result of reading far too much “Conservative Christian” literature growing up, and therefore having this idea in my head that every relationship should “work,” and if it doesn’t, that means you’ve failed.
There was some of that going on, but that wasn’t – isn’t – the main reason for my struggle with worthlessness.
The truth is, I made a lot of mistakes in this ended relationship. I compromised my standards. Multiple times. I messed up. A lot.
I have never felt so much shame and guilt in my life. I struggled for weeks (months?) to accept God’s forgiveness. In my mind, I didn’t deserve to be forgiven, because I knew better and yet made those mistakes anyway. And even though I was sorry for my sins, I felt as though accepting God’s forgiveness would somehow be taking advantage of his goodness.
I “humanized” God, and pictured him begrudgingly “forgiving” me, all the while shaking his head and muttering about how if I’d just listened to him in the first place I wouldn’t be in this situation of having to ask for forgiveness.
Looking back now, I find myself going “Where did that come from?” Where did I get that mindset? Picturing God always viewing me with scorn and mistrust because of my past sins?? Wow!! That’s not the God I know and love!
Unfortunately, that is a lot of the “Christians” I know.
Hate to say it. I really do. But in many “Christian” circles, the people who aren’t so good at hiding their sins are viewed with scorn and mistrust. They have not been forgiven, their sins have been “overlooked… for now,” and the shame and guilt is still very much alive and thriving.
Let’s go back to Jonah.
So. God tells Jonah to go warn the people of Nineveh that God ain’t happy with ’em. Instead, Jonah tries to run away (enter the big fish part of the story that we all know). Once Jonah gets vomited back up onto land, he decides that maybe he’d better go do what God wanted him to do after all. So he goes and preaches to the people of Nineveh – and they repent! They change their ways, ask God’s forgiveness, and God forgives them. Great! Just the happy ending we all wanted, right?
Well… no. You see, Jonah didn’t want that ending. Why did he run away in the first place? Allow me – straight from the 4th chapter of the book of Jonah: “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
Jonah didn’t think the people of Nineveh deserved to be forgiven! He thought their sins should destroy them. They should get what they deserved! They weren’t worth having mercy on, in his mind.
So… what if the people of Nineveh had listened to Jonah’s opinion of them, and taken that to be God’s opinion of them also? The story could have had a very different ending!
The Ninevites were wise to realize that God had a very different opinion of their worth than Jonah did.
Just like God has a very different opinion of my worth, and your worth, than the Jonahs of this world do.
That, my friend, is a lesson worth learning. And a lesson worth remembering.
Let’s remember it, shall we?
P.S. Here’s something to mull over – why did God send Jonah? Simply because it was so out of his comfort zone, and so much something he didn’t want to do? Or is there some other reason?