The day God’s grace seemed evil

This postmodern reality, where truth is up for grabs and dictated by the discerning eye of the beholder, is no recent phenomenon.

Jonah once suffered from the same delusion.

As Jonah sat on a dry and barren hillside outside Nineveh, waiting for the coming destruction, his worse fears materialised before his eyes. The God Jonah knew showed up just the way he had feared he would.

God came with grace.

Jonah 3:10ff

When God saw what they did, how they turned away from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.

The footnote in my ESV Study Bible, informs me that the Hebrew here can be literally translated, “But it was exceedingly evil to Jonah“.

Such was Jonah’s delusion.

From Jonah’s vantage point, the God whom Malachi would latter describe as the ‘sun of righteousness who rises with healing in his wings’, or of whom David sang, ‘The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’; this God came with amazing grace.

Yet in Jonah’s eyes, this righteous, healing, merciful, patient and loving grace, was a revolting evil that did nothing but fuel his anger.

And before I let my gospel-centered infatuation cause me to point a judgmental finger at Jonah, maybe I too need to learn the lesson of the shrivelled up plant.

Jonah didn’t fight against God because he was scared of the Ninevites; he ran and railed because he knew God would turn up with healing in his wings, he knew God would show grace… and he did not believe the Ninevites deserved it.

Jonah 4:2

And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was yet in my own country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster…”

As the blood of thousands cry for justice from the Nigerian soil, does my heart beat with hatred toward Boko Haram? Or does my heart cry out in anguish toward the hope of healing that the gospel can bring?

What about ISIS? Do they deserve God’s relenting favour?

What about you? Do you deserve God’s grace… do I?

This is the gospel.

There is a world out there that does not know their right hand from their left; sheep without a shepherd, and I am numbered among them.

Ephesians 2:4

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved –

Jonah ran from this grace. He wanted it for himself, yet not for others.

But the gospel pursues us, captures us, compels us, even obligates us.

As you now see the grace of God poured out on the undeserving, how does it appear to you?

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