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
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.