Anger is such a part of our world today. I wish I could say that it is mostly found outside the church, but sadly, it isn't. I think there are many Christians who don't realize they harbor ill feelings because they hide them so well they rarely surface. Maybe it would be wise to do some soul searching for deep-felt anger and lay it at the feet of Jesus.
It was a story I never really understood in the Bible. Oh sure, it was exciting to teach to children in Sunday School, but I always ended with the good part. I never went past chapter 3 because I couldn't explain why a prophet was upset when people turned to God. I didn't understand the anger that rose up in a man of God over a good thing. It took years for me to understand the book of Jonah!
Through the years, I have noticed that a lot of people end his story at the same place I did. Sermons and lessons often end at the high point of perhaps the greatest revival in history. 120,000 Ninevites turn to God- simply amazing. Most evangelists would mark this up as the biggest event in their ministry, but not Jonah, he became angry. Not only was he angry, but he sat down and pouted about it.
Have you ever pouted at God?
Jonah was one of the few prophets sent to preach to the Gentiles- to a people who had inflicted terror on Israel. He was probably confused when God wanted him to go to Ninevah. After he finally obeyed and the city turned to God, I'm sure he was waiting for some type of judgment from God which turned to anger when nothing happened. I guess the lesson in the belly of the big fish didn't sink in as deeply as it should have. The book leaves us hanging. Jonah shows more sympathy for a withered plant that God placed over him than for the people of Ninevah.
I hang my head as I realize I'm not any better off than Jonah. There have been many times that I've sat back and watched others, secretly wanting them to fail so I could say, 'aha!'. I have harbored ill feelings that grew out of jealousy and insecurity that led to spiritual death, living far from being 'Christlike'. I look around and see there are others who have the Jonah-syndrome of misguided values that if left alone grow bitterness, hatred, or arrogance.
When we see God bless someone who has betrayed us, do we praise Him?
When God restores a spiritually wounded warrior, do we rejoice with them?
Do we secretly think some people do not deserve God's mercy or favor?
Do we have good reason to be angry? (Jonah 4:4)
When we have true freedom in Christ, we will be able to answer those questions unashamedly. As Christians, we are to be like Christ. The greatest commandment shows no room for hatred, jealousy, or bitterness. Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37-38)
The Love of Christ is
Do we have that kind of love? Take a minute to search your heart for any deep-rooted ill feelings, and leave them at the cross.
Jonah put it so perfectly in ch 4 v 2,
"You are a gracious and merciful God,
slow to anger and
abundant in lovingkindness,
One who relents from doing harm."
I pray that we will all be more gracious and merciful to each other- may we be slow to anger- and may we be abundant in the love of God.