But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. … “And now, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”Jonah 4:1,3 (HCSB)
Have you ever been so angry you would rather die than live another second? Have you been so angry that you are consumed by rage and your emotions take you hostage till you have no control? This is how Jonah felt.
What could possibly make someone so mad? Grace. Jonah got mad because he could not understand grace. Grace is the freely given gift of God which we do not deserve and can never earn—it is mercy and forgiveness, love and friendship. The Ninevites were the worst of the worst—the Nazis of their time. How could God possibly forgive them? How could God possibly let them ‘off the hook’ and not pay for their crimes? It just wasn’t fair! Or so Jonah thought.
The idea of God’s mercy is scandalous. It is scandalous that a mass murder or a paedophile could be forgiven for all they have ever done if they truly repent and believe in Jesus. It is scandalous that Jesus would take all of their sin on Himself and become the mass murderer they were, become the paedophile they were, and take their punishment—their just desserts—for them. Even on a more mundane level we are scandalised by grace. How can that person who did that thing to that person come to church? How can that person who said that thing behind another person’s back be allowed at the Lord’s Table? It is just not fair! We cry out ‘Surely there must be punishment even after they have truly repented’ (and the discipline we mentioned on Day 22 may have a role in bringing about that true repentance).
All people who are scandalised by such things have one thing in common: they fail to realise that we are all sinners, we all fail, we all need forgiveness. When we realise how much we have offended God, how horrible and terrible even our ‘smallest sins’ are before our holy Lord, we realise that, really, we are no different to anyone else—even the mass murderer and paedophile. We all need grace because none of us deserve to be forgiven for anything in the first place. Jesus told His disciples that “if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” (Matthew 6:15). That is the hardest and bitterest of pills to swallow, but once we learn to forgive, we find the sweetest and greatest of joys.