Of Ninevah had been written, “Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder–dead bodies without end–who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms” (Nahum 3:1, 3-4). Ninevah was an evil nation, hated by Israel, and God called the prophet Jonah to “arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). Ninevah was 500 miles east. Jonah immediately boarded a ship for Tarshish, two thousand miles west, the opposite direction. Jonah hated evil Ninevah, so he also hated a good God who is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah disobeyed God and set sail to remove God’s mercy as far from Ninevah as possible.
It did not work, of course. God sent a storm to get Jonah tossed from the ship, “so they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging” (Jonah 1:15); and God sent a great fish to swallow him up and deliver him back to Israel, “and the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10). “Let’s start over,” God said. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you’” (Jonah 3:1-2). Jonah obeyed this time, “and the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5), and God relented, just as Jonah had predicted, “when God saw what they did, how they turned 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” (Jonah 3:10-4:1). Jonah would prefer a god made in his own image, a god who would hate the same people he hated. But that is not God.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). It turns out, the way you can tell God has made you in his image is how much you love the same people he loves.
Savior God, You are full of mercy and grace. My love for You is displayed as I love people. In fact, You said it will be apparent that I am Your disciple by my love for others. God, help me improve at love. Teach me Your ways. May I be a servant like Your Son.
Thank You for Your salvation. It has changed my heart. If You can show that kind of love for me, can I not love others the same?