In my post, “A New Normal,” we looked at the insane experience that Jonah went through being swallowed by a large fish. We saw how this experience led him to have a repentant heart. He confessed his disobedience to God and said that if given the chance, he would follow through on the vows he had made to God in the past. Sure enough, the Lord caused the fish to vomit up Jonah. Reluctantly, Jonah changed his course and went to Nineveh to deliver God’s message. But then something awful happened. Before I go on, let me say that through this difficult time of isolation and suffering around the world due to Covid-19, like Jonah, we have some choices to make as to how we respond. As I walk my dog each day, I see many neighbors cleaning up their yards and doing house repairs. This is a great time for that. But it also can be a time to allow God to clean up our hearts and minds. This is what God was attempting to do for Jonah. Sadly, he resisted the healing work of the great Physician . . . the work of cleaning up hatred from his heart.
Hatred . . . Who me? Hatred is a horrible feeling. It is not something that most of us want to feel or admit to. And yet, when we refuse to forgive someone or ourselves, it often comes from a root of hatred. Unknowingly, hatred can be passed down from one generation to another. When we grow up around people who express their hostility towards us, another individual, a group, or even a race, we sadly can take hold of these oppressive perspectives.
None of us is exempt from the temptation to fall into hatred. When injustice falls on our doorstep, the enemy seizes this opportunity to introduce us to this dangerous evil companion. When we are falsely accused, when someone we love is wrongly hurt, when we lose someone we care about; hatred (towards others or God) crouches at our door.
Look at the heart of Jonah. A prophet. A servant of God. Yet, a part of his heart was blackened by the cancer of racism, a form of hatred to a people group, nation, or race. Growing up in northern Israel in the 8th century B.C., he had listened to the stories of the past brutality of the Ninevites towards the Jews. The prophet Nahum lets us know that these rulers of Assyria were terribly cruel (see Nahum 3:1-4). Monuments from the Assyrians have been excavated in modern day Iraq that show they would cut off body parts, even ripping off peoples’ skin and displaying it on the city walls. They destroyed nations through acts of violence, deception, and idolatry. Their religion was that of Satanic worship. For this reason, God sent Jonah on a mission to tell them of His intent to judge and destroy them.
Jonah was eager for God’s judgement to come upon them. However, he had a hunch that if he went to Nineveh and prophesied God’s judgement that the people would repent, and God would have mercy on them. The seed of racism was deep in his heart. So Jonah was angry at God. Jonah said he would rather die than see the Ninevites forgiven (see Jonah 4:3).
Though God judges the wicked, he also forgives when they sincerely repent. The Lord held back his judgement on the repentant Ninevites for 120 years. After that time, they turned back to their wicked ways and God’s judgement fell upon them.
As difficult as it may be, God calls us to forgive our enemies. As I write this, it is Good Friday. The day we celebrate and give thanks to God for the greatest gift of love ever given to the world. Completely innocent, Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself. He did this to open the doors for us to be forgiven and receive an eternal relationship with the living God!
Instead of hatred for His offenders, Jesus said: “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Years before this amazing act of love, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to let us know of His redemptive provision. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Sisters and brothers, turn to God with any feelings of hatred, racism, or unforgiveness. Release these feelings to God. Ask for forgiveness for your bitterness and judgement. Trust the Lord, our Righteous Judge that in His timing, he will deal with the sins of our offenders. Forgive your enemies. “But I (Jesus) tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Let us come out of this difficult season with a new normal, a heart of forgiveness and love, even for our enemies.
Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 5:43-48; Jonah 3-4.
- Sue Corl
To visit Sue's recent post a New Normal // Part 1 click here: https://crownofbeautyintl.wixsite.com/crownofbeauty/post/a-new-normal