Read Jonah 4:1–11
People love receiving grace and compassion.
Be honest. You are no exception. You love it when the police officer lets you go without a ticket. You appreciate when a good friend overlooks your impatience. Grace sure beats justice when you do wrong. Compassion is surely preferred over judgment when you step out of line.
It is quite ironic, though, that, while we relish grace and compassion for ourselves, we sometimes desire justice and judgment for others. Those two realities make Jonah’s story inconceivably realistic. It is inconceivable that a recipient of grace would want to see it withheld from others? And yet we do at times. We sometimes want them to get what they deserve. That is what makes it realistic.
Jonah 4 helps us to understand why Jonah resisted at the outset. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he did not want to see God extend grace to the people. He wanted them to experience justice. So, when God asked him to head east, Jonah fled west.
Under coercion of a great fish and with the possible hope that this great God would exercise justice, Jonah went. He warned. And then, he watched. The Ninevites repented. True to form, God relented. And, surprisingly, Jonah regretted ever having gone there.
That is when God used a leafy plant, a worm, the wind, and the sun to teach a lesson. Jonah claimed some ownership and appreciation for a plant. He had done nothing to bring the plant into existence or to care for it. Still, he loved it. Shouldn’t the sovereign creator God, who created the Ninevites, have compassion for these ones made in His image?
You see, this “grace for me, justice for you” attitude is a dangerous thing. It will prevent you from participating in God’s mission. He desires that all people be saved (1 Tim 2:4). In experiencing the wonderful, matchless grace of Jesus, you are postured to be its greatest advocate to others.