Jesus said we’re to love others, but every now and then someone in my life isn’t acting loveable – they’re demanding or ungrateful or not living up to my expectations in some way. I pray for patience and understanding, but sometimes I don’t do so well. What I’d like to do is avoid them altogether, reasoning that my attitude will then continue to honor God, unhampered by the offending personality. Jonah shared my dilemma.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2)
The Book of Nahum describes some of Nineveh’s wickedness, including plotting against the Lord, worshiping multiple gods rather than the one true God, to carving images and casting idols in their temple, witchcraft, they were “full of lies,” plundering and never without victims, leaving piles of dead. Like not quite so difficult people in my life, Jonah wanted nothing to do with the people of Nineveh.
My response to the unlovable depends on who I’m living for. If my purpose is my personal happiness, then I too will go in the opposite direction of Nineveh! I’ll do my Bible Study, tithe, volunteer, dedicate myself at work and love my family and friends while avoiding contact with the “wicked.” But that’s not what God has purposed for me.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:44, 46-47)
If I have truly determined to love the Lord my God and to love others, that means everyone. When I fail to love those seemingly unlovable people God has placed in my life, like Jonah, I am disobeying God. And that always comes with consequences. For Jonah it meant a deadly storm overtaking the ship he was fleeing on. Thrown overboard, the storm threatened Jonah’s life until he surrendered his defiance to the will of God.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. (Jonah 2:7)
I may not have currents swirling around me, waves breaking over me with seaweed wrapped around my head as Jonah did, but my stubborn mindset is a choice to defy God and will always have consequences. My condition will deteriorate if I continue to ignore God’s command to love – He’ll get my attention sooner or later.
Have you noticed that we tend to enlist support when we think someone’s being a pain in the neck? We want others to share our opinions. Gossiping or asking for prayer in a way that shares our complaint against someone can’t be reversed. The opinions we’ve helped others form are lasting.
Reading Jonah’s experience helped me realize how I was disobeying God’s call to love someone he has put in my life. My nit picking and fault finding has been interfering with my joy. How can I experience all of God’s blessings when I am withholding an area of my heart from him? When I confessed the error of my ways and committed to love and honor, it was easy to do so. I find that relinquishing my stubborn attitude allows others to do the same.
Are your responses to someone sharper than they should be? Is there someone you need to forgive? Does someone get under your skin? Do you always anticipate the worst from them? Ask God to reveal any attitude that needs adjusting and commit to following His will in the relationship.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)