God said to Jonah, “Are you really so very angry about the little plant?” And he said, “I am as angry as I could possibly be!” The Lord said, “You were upset about this little plant, something for which you have not worked nor did you do anything to make it grow. It grew up overnight and died the next day. Should I not be even more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city? There are more than one hundred twenty thousand people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals!
Jonah cared more about a weed that provided him shade, than all the people of Nineveh combined. His love was grounded in selfish comfort—what it did for him. Yet God, who gains nothing from man (Acts 17:25), intricately and lovingly crafted every human being in that great (and corrupt) city, and cares for them just as He did Jonah (and you and me).
God has spoken so profoundly through this video for the past several days. While a great illustration to communication in marriage, I believe it is a greater illustration to showing grace to others.
I immediately identified with the man (naturally), but God quickly spoke to me while mulling it over. “You have nails in your head too.”
But I don’t act like it.
My love tends to be selfish like Jonah’s, loving those who love me; forgiving those who forgive me; being patient with those who are patient with me. That kind of love profits me nothing (Luke 6:32). God has shown such immense grace in my life, and I often withhold that same grace to others. I look back and see how tenderly God has dealt with me in the same struggles I’ve wallowed in for years (like Jonah and his hatred to the Assyrians). Yet when I’m with someone else with a problem I so easily see, I am incredibly self-serving in my aid. I am quick to point out the obvious flaws in others, “speaking truth” but not in love (Ephesians 4:15). Because while there are times to point out the problem—when our Heavenly Father tells us to (thus, in faith)—my desire to do so is often rooted in, well, me. Like Jonah before the withering plant, I want their problems to stop inconveniencing me. I just want to throw them a life saver, and yell at them to reach for it as they splash frantically about. I don’t want to have to jump into their mess and patiently and tenderly help their hands find deliverance. After all getting wet is uncomfortable, and I might get hurt in the process.
Yet there is a reason God is not allowing them to see what is so plain to me (the reason we don’t want to remove the nail). Two reasons: He sees the deeper issue in them that has to be attended to first. And He sees the deeper issue in me.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love…. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” -Ephesians 4:1-2, 32
It’s easy to give the advice of Bob Newhart (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw). But few find it truly helpful, no matter how true the statement is. Rather, we are called to “long-suffering,” extending to others the patient and graceful love that God has extended to us.
Lord, help me extend grace to others that you have extended to me.