Stories Without Endings, Part 2: Repentance

Repentance (Jonah)
 

    The second story without an ending deals with Jonah and our need for repentance. It teaches us the importance of valuing God's values and changing our ways when they are opposed to God's.

    Jonah, God's prophet with a bad attitude, was called by God to preach God's word in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, Israel's enemy. Jonah thumbs through the 'Church Openings” section of the Bethlehem Bugle and finds a more agreeable pastoral assignment in Tarshish. He hires a boat to take him there, and tells the steward not to wake him until they arrive. God, however, has not changed his mind, and the next time Jonah sees the light of day he is standing on dry land with regurgitated seaweed staining his new suit.

    When we first see Jonah he is disobedient. Then we see him during the world's first submarine ride as he seeks God and prays the psalms. Finally, we see Jonah sitting and pouting over the fact that God is merciful and cares more for a few thousand souls in Assyria than He does for Jonah's hurt feelings. In fact, we never seem to see a good Jonah.

    Jonah is an example of people who have everything they need in God to make their life full and complete, but are unhappy because their every whim and desire is not met according to their current list of wants. They have an agenda of what would fulfill them and make them happy, and when they don't get it they decide to opt out of serving God. Not content with knowing the love and mercy of God, they want a compliant god who takes vengeance on their enemies and goes out of his way to make them happy and comfortable.

    But a life of salvation and discipleship is not a life of comfort, bless-me-clubs, and unbroken happiness. Rather, it is one of trials, suffering, opposition and, in some cases, martyrdom. It involves complete obedience to God even if we don't like the results. It means giving up our rights as well as our wrongs, seeking first His kingdom in all we do, and not going out and promoting the small plot of land we call 'My Happiness.” It means knowing God so well that when we pray for the desires of our heart, we are praying the very heart of God. This was a lesson that Jonah was in the process of learning when our story about him comes to a sudden end.

    Let's not be mistaken. Jonah had a relationship with God of such depth and understanding that he not only knew what God was telling him to do, but also knew what God would do if the people repented. But since the desires of Jonah were not the desires of God, Jonah wanted to die so that he would no longer have to see his enemies receive the same love and mercy that Israel had known. God had revealed himself to Jonah, the way Jesus had shown Himself to the rich young ruler. Both were given choices, and both stories end without our knowing what their final decision may have been. After our revelation of God, we are given the ability to respond to His gift and live peaceably with Him by loving what He loves and hating what He hates, that is, making God's values our values. The response, of course, cannot be made by anyone but you. God's response to our heartfelt repentance is mercy and salvation. What will you decide?