Despising God’s Grace

I seldom preach on Jonah. In the lectionary cycle it comes around only once and always shares the day with Jesus calling disciples who drop their nets (and leave Dad in the boat) to follow him. But today I enjoyed delving into the humor of Jonah.
The focus of this moral tale is Jonah’s rage that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent from punishing.” Jonah just cannot abide the values of God. Jonah would rather die than see the Ninevites forgiven. Jonah would simply not believe that the Ninevites – those foreigners – those brutal Assyrians — could really repent.
As I look at our religious landscape, and particularly at the conservative brand of Christianity that yells loudest in this day and time, I see a sad association with Jonah. Far often ‘Christians’ despise God’ grace. We rage at the very idea of God ‘relenting to punish’. (Unless, of course, we are talking about ourselves!) We may think we are responding to God’s call. The problem is that we have not chosen to understand and embrace who God is!. Then when God …. well, turns out to be God, and brings even those we despise to GodSelf, we call it evil. Very often we deal with that by running to a kind of church that will agree with and prop us up in our desire for condemnation, hatred, and revenge.
If we read the Gospels and we come to know the person of Jesus the Christ, we find God’s grace and mercy, slowness to anger, and abounding love embodied in Jesus. May we respond to God’s call in our lives with a growing understand that our God is a graceful God who intends that everyone be redeemed.


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