As I have met with a group of men in my Life Group this year, there is one question that has been particularly convicting – “In what ways have you viewed others as objects: tools or impediments?” Do you see the store cashier as the conduit for your groceries or as a young, single man struggling to pay off school loans? Is the driver in front of you an impediment on the way to your destination or an elderly woman who just lost her husband and is disoriented by the busy traffic?
Jonah was a prophet in Israel and he was asked to take God’s message of judgment to the wicked city of Nineveh. Jonah hated the Ninevites and refused to go. But God wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and he sent a great fish to swallow up Jonah and get him back on track (the part of the story we know best). God did indeed extend mercy to Nineveh and he taught Jonah a powerful lesson in the process.
God caused a vine to grow up and shelter Jonah from the blazing desert sun. But then God caused a worm to eat the vine and Jonah was left to swelter in the heat. Jonah was so angry about the vine. And God confronts Jonah. “You are angry about the loss of this inanimate vine that you didn’t even plant. Can’t you understand why I am concerned about these people (the Ninevites) that I created?” The text ends abruptly. We are left wondering how Jonah responded. And, more to the point, we are left wondering how we would respond.
Certainly, we see something very different in the ministry of Jesus. The disciples were always wanting Jesus to send the crowds away. The crowds were a drain on their resources and a disruption in their relationship with Jesus. But Jesus saw the crowds for who they really were – sheep without a shepherd. Is there anyone in your life that you need to stop viewing as a problem and start viewing as a person?
Photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-walking-on-gray-pavement-42384/