This story is a wonderful satire about a reluctant prophet named Jonah. He doesn’t want to take God’s message to the people of Nineveh, because Nineveh is the capital of his country’s enemy, Assyria. And Jonah knows that God’s mercy will prevail over Jonah’s need for justice and the punishment of his enemies. So Jonah runs the other way. God brings him back (in a fish) and Jonah delivers God’s message. The people and even the animals of Nineveh repent. God does not destroy them, and Jonah is very angry.
I knew it! says Jonah. He understands how merciful God is and he does not like the result! How quickly Jonah forgets that he himself has been forgiven by this merciful God.
Like Jonah, we sometimes wrestle with the overwhelming goodness of God, God’s grace and forgiveness for all. How can we understand God’s compassion for those we think God should destroy? Is there no one who is beyond the reach of God’s mercy?
And like Jonah, we struggle with our call to be part of God’s mission of reconciliation in the world. This call will follow us into every place where, like Jonah, we try to hide.
Merciful God, help us accept our part in offering your grace and forgiveness to the whole world. Amen. — JN