Wednesday, June 07, 2017

And He Loved Them Too

"I'm so angry I wish I were dead."  What a ridiculous statement from Jonah (Jonah 4:9) after not getting his way while God got his.  The temper tantrum of a toddler because God did what Jonah knew he was going to do.

As ridiculous as it sounds, this is my favorite part of Jonah's story.  Maybe because I relate so well.  You see, I have a self-righteousness problem.  I think I know it all.  I think my interpretation of the Bible, my doctrine, my church is better than yours.  So I always have to check myself when I'm tempted to be critical.

Jonah thought his interpretation of God's will was better than the the God who gave it, that his faith was better than the Ninevites.  So he ignored God's instructions.  Actually, he did more than ignore it, he ran as far away from it as he could.

But God's will couldn't be ignored for long; a great fish had other ideas.

The stories seemed to come on top of each other- the trial of a church trying to beat the homosexuality out of a man and a congressman declaring holy war on Muslims.  My instinct was to ask, "do these people actually read their Bibles?"  Even today I saw an article at Christianity Today on how we can pray for Muslims during Ramadan.  Yes, the headline was click-bait, but the comments are appalling.  So when I heard the news about a man arrested on his way to shoot doctors, my first thought was "abortion".

Turns out that wasn't the case.  But what does it say when that's what we expect?

You've probably heard the saying, Christians are known more for what they are against than what they are for.  While that usually invokes images of protesters in front of abortion clinics or at a funeral holding signs saying, "God hates fags", we usually don't think of such exercises of 'free speech' as violent.

Until an abortion clinic is bombed.

Or until the son of a famous evangelist and president of a prominent Christian college encourages Christians to carry guns so that they can "end" Muslims.

Or until a gay youth is driven to suicide by family, friends, and a church who reject her.

These types of Christians are so angry they wish others were dead.

And darn right I'm critical.

You see, what made Jonah so angry (besides the heat, because c'mon who isn't short-tempered in scorching heat) was that God had the nerve to forgive.  It wasn't up to Jonah to decide who was worthy.  Jonah admitted, "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." (4:2)  And that graciousness, that compassion, that love extended even to Jonah's enemies.

I wonder if the folks at Word of Life Church, or Congressman Higgins, or Jerry Falwell Jr have ever read this story and asked,who the Ninevites are in their lives, because God loves them too.  The homosexual.  The Muslim.  The liberal.  The woman.  The sinner.  God loves them too.

So these headlines make me angry.  Angry because the hatred and the violence is what some people think Christianity is all about.  It makes me so angry at times I was I was dead and didn't have to deal with it.

Because God loves them too.

The Christians who don't look like Jesus.  The pastor who confuses nationalism with faith.  The angry crusader.  The homophobe.  The self-righteous.  The face in the mirror.

God loves them too.

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