A few days ago, I was editing some Bible study lessons when I came across the author’s question:
Why did God even bother with Jonah?
I’ve asked myself that same question, not because of the infamous run-away-and-become-food-for-fishes story but because of what follows. The still largely unrepentant prophet goes to Ninevah and gives the fire and brimstone speech. Jonah is all about God’s judgment, maybe still a little bitter about being on the receiving end. He can’t wait to watch the city crash and burn. He even goes up on a hill to make sure he has prime seating for the big Sodom and Gomorrah moment.
Problem is, he didn’t check the itinerary before taking his seat. God promised judgment if the people didn’t repent. Unlike the prophet, the Ninevites were all about God’s mercy. They repented. They grieved that their sins had offended God. They begged for a reprieve, and God granted it.
Jonah was not happy with that turn of events. So why did God bother?
However, in the split second it took for my mind to run through Jonah’s faults, the study writer immediately fired another question:
Why does God bother with any of us?
Ouch! Even guessing where that story was headed, I fell right into the same trap Jonah sat in: condemning and judging from a distance. Waiting for God to show how awesome I am by punishing everyone else.
At first, I answered that question by comparing it to human love. No one’s perfect, but I still love a lot of people. My parents, my husband, my church. Myself, of course. We’ll never be angels, but I love my people as they are.
But God’s different. Unlike other people, His love encompasses not only what we are but what we can be. God’s love can change us. It does change us. Gradually, we become less like Jonah and more like Jesus.
That’s why God bothers with us.