Jonah was a great prophet who did what God asked him. However, he was not ready to carry out one such task: to travel to Nineveh and give out God’s prophesy.
In the story, the people of Nineveh were wicked enemies of Jonah’s people. For most people, showing mercy to one’s enemy can be challenging, especially if you feel they deserve their comeuppance.
However, that is not an honorable way to live. It is selfish to act as if we are above them and let God make them suffer without giving them a chance to repent. Jonah’s selfishness and disobedience led him to be swallowed by a giant fish. It also led him to suffer under the sun’s heat when God commanded a worm to eat the root of the plant that provided him shade.
As Christians, we are expected to meet others who do not share our beliefs. Whatever the case, we are not exempted from criticism from others and have probably felt the temptation to fight back. However, that is not what God or Jesus intends us to do. In fact, one of Jesus’ many talks involves loving our enemies as much as we love ourselves.
“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” Luke 6:29
As you can see, we must treat our enemies with compassion and kindness. We offer empathy and mercy if they respond to us in hatred and disgust. We must do so because we have to end the cycle of hatred, revenge, and pettiness.
When Jesus preached such words, he didn’t ask us to place ourselves in danger, but instead, keep ourselves pure by not succumbing to the temptation of retaliation. When we do not take our enemy’s words or threats personally, we save ourselves from being a part of worldly worries.
by Chad Groen
Author of Jonah: Beyond the Whale