October 3, 2021

God's Love for Nineveh

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city?

Jonah 4:10-11
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. But Nineveh was too evil in Jonah's eyes. They didn't deserve to be invited into God's fold. There's a lot more to this story, but at one point God grants Jonah the grace of a bush that shields him from the hot sun. But then God causes the bush to die. Jonah doesn't think this is fair, so God asks him why he cares so much about a bush that he didn't create and which he didn't cultivate. As it turns out this was a parable, for if Jonah can care about the fate of a plant, then why shouldn't God care about the fate of a people?

Judgmentalism is part of the human condition. We deem some people beyond hope and beyond help, and so we write them off. Sometimes it's an individual whose life we have judged to be unworthy. Sometimes it's an entire country or region that hasn't, in our opinion, done enough to help themselves. But there's no one who is beyond God's love. And in love, God has called each of us to care for our neighbor.

There's another component to this story that also needs to be mentioned: Sometimes the person we consider unworthy of God's love or anyone else's help is ourselves. When we find ourselves thinking along these lines, perhaps we should read the Book of Jonah and replace the people of Nineveh with our own name, thus realizing and accepting the love of God.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful.
 James 5:11
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
Help me to love others as you love them, O God, and to accept your love for me as well.
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After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.
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