Where I live, there are thousands of people who are living in darkness -- not in a lack of light; but in spiritual darkness.  No doubt, it would be no less true if you inserted your city's name into that statement.  Sadly, many of those souls will leave this life before the end of 2014 and behold their first glimpse of eternity.  Many will leave before the end of the month; before the end of the week.  Maybe even before I'm done typing this.

Do those souls -- drunks, wife-beaters, murderers, thieves, etc -- deserve God's wrath in the eternity that awaits them?  Unquestionably.  Do I, however, deserve His mercy? Surely not, for I am the worst sinner I know.  For some reason, however, God, has chosen to show His great mercy and compassion to sinners galore.

The ancient prophet of Yahweh -- Jonah -- faced a situation in which his enemies (the very enemies of God) were subjects of God's mercy and compassion.  That account is over in Jonah 4.  Yahweh's mercy was so shocking that it would be similar to Him showing mercy upon Islamic State militants today.  Jonah was ecstatic shocked; but I have to admit, I think I'd be ecstatic shocked too.  Jonah was pleased angry at God for showing His great compassion on a people of His own choosing; but I have to admit, I think I'd be pleased angry too.  Had Jonah forgotten that he, too, was once a sinner not deserving of God's mercy?  Yet, God, in His great compassion, showed mercy even to him.  I sometimes forget that I, too, was (and still am, if not for Jesus Christ) undeserving of God's mercy.

I'm getting to my main point in just a moment, but first let me draw your attention to two verses that stand out to me in this Jonah account.

First, Jonah's confession that God is a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love; that He is eager to turn back from destroying people (verse 2).  Did you notice that?  Eager to turn back from His wrath!  Truly, this is bold!

Next, is God's announcement that Ninevah (insert your city's name here) had, at the time, more than 120,000 (insert any number you wish here) people living in spiritual darkness.  Then He asked Jonah, "Shouldn't I feel sorry for such a great city?"  It will forever boggle my mind why God would ever want to restrain His hand from instantly destroying His enemies.  Yet, He does.

As I consider that conversational exchange, I must ask myself, How does this inform and influence my involvement in the arts, or forensic science, or politics, or law, or fatherhood?  Do I use those arenas to extend God's compassion and mercy to my city, workplace, family? Are people relieved when I arrive, suspecting that I will provide strong hope, compassion, and gentleness?  Or do they dread my arrival, knowing that I will do nothing but gripe and complain and bring them down with me?

These are sobering questions I've asked myself, but I think I'm afraid to hear the answers.  If I truly believe this, it seems to me that I should live a life of compassion for the outsiders, the broken, the not-so-attractive, the unpopular.  Instead, I routinely choose judgement and condemnation.

May God help me.


  1. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts, Mike! I think I also find myself in the seat of judgment rather than compassion. The story of Jonah is so fascinating partly because Jonah himself, in his attitude and behavior, is so far from the ideal man of God, and yet God uses him to bring his powerful message of compassion and mercy to a people in dire need of it. Maybe that's because Jonah was in need of it too! But after all, who isn't?

    1. I think we all need to be reminded of these great truths....which is probably why the Holy Spirit thought it was important to have Jonah's story recorded in writing for us. Be well, friend!