A few weeks ago a song stopped me in my thoughts during my morning commute to work. “Always stay humble and kind,” I heard a man’s voice singing on the radio. I turned up the volume to listen to the words. At the end of each verse he’d sing, “always stay humble and kind.”
I was not in a good place that morning, if you know what I mean. I hadn’t slept well, pushed the snooze button way to many times that morning, and was irritated when I left the house. Each week, if not not daily, new constructions were set up along my route to work. Stop and go and more stop than go didn’t lighten my mood either. If anything, this made me even more irritable.
Do you think it was a coincidence I heard that song the last 1000 meters before I arrived at the office? I parked my car and bowed my head. I realized God had spoken. I confessed to God my irritable behaviour, my negative thoughts, my self-righteousness, the unwillingness to extend grace. Yes, grace.
I’m reminded of Jonah and his unwillingness to extend grace. He displayed his self-righteous attitude by not going to Nineveh as God had instructed. He decided to “go in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD.” (Jonah 1:3 NLT) When Jonah receives his marching orders from God the second time, he obeys.
You would think that’s how the story ends. A happy ending after much turmoil, like a storm, being thrown overboard, swallowed by a great fish, spit out onto a beach…
Jonah obeys, right? Yes, he does. But he still doesn’t agree with God when God doesn’t destroy the city of Nineveh after its people confess and turn to God.
Wasn’t that why Jonah was asked to go and preach to the people of Nineveh? But Jonah didn’t see it that way. He complains to God: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD?… I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me know, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” Jonah 4: 2-3 NLT
Do you hear Jonah’s pride? He predicted the doom and gloom for Nineveh, and now that God relented and changed his mind and decided to show grace to the people, Jonah was all bent out of shape. His credibility as a prophet was gone…
Or did he think they didn’t deserve God’s grace? They were the enemy of his people, violent and merciless. And now God showed them grace?
“Jonah wanted the Ninevites to pay for their crimes against his people. In his graceless way of thinking, they should get what they had coming. Jonah couldn’t get past his prejudice. He was caught in the conflict of grace: it was something he was quick to ask for, but not something he was quick to dispense.” Andy Stanley in The Grace of God
“Always be humble and kind” reminded me of how quick I am to ask for grace, but oh so slow to dispense grace.
Who am I do decide who deserves grace and who does not? Jonah’s story is a great reminder to leave prejudice and self-righteousness and pride at the door. Instead, extend grace, and “always be humble and kind.”