“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” -Matthew 5:43-44
Jonah had just preached the shortest sermon recorded in Scripture to the wicked residents of Nineveh. The very thing that Jonah was nervous about happened; the Ninevites repented of their sin.
Here is how the prophet Jonah responded to revival breaking out in Nineveh:
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. -Jonah 4:1-2
Everything in this story is upside down. The prophet of God is rebellious and the wicked city of Nineveh is repentant.
But don’t miss this, a direct contrast is being made between Jonah and the God he claims to be serving. Jonah is angry and God is merciful and slow to anger. The point being made is quite clear. We need to be less like Jonah and more like God. We need to drop the unrighteous anger and instead become people of compassion.
It seems to me that there is more anger and rage present today among confessing Christians than what I have witnessed in the past. You see it online in the name calling, demonizing spiritual and political opponents, and the failure to love people who are different than us.
“The tragedy is that in the name of resisting the internal deterioration of faith and the corruption of the world around them, many Christians – and Christian conservatives most significantly – unwittingly embrace some of the most corrosive aspects of the cultural disintegration they decry. By nurturing its resentments, sustaining them through a discourse of negation toward outsiders, and in cases, pursuing their will to power, they become functional Nietzscheans, participating in the very cultural breakdown they so ardently strive to resist.” -James Davison Hunter
Here is a critically important question, why do we react with rage and anger when God is calling his people first and foremost to be people of compassion? I think there are a variety of answers to this question but I will highlight three.
- Christians are angry because they feel like they are losing ground in today’s culture war. As Christians we are accustomed to our society being under-girded by our faith. What we find unsettling is that our American culture is increasingly becoming post-Christian and therefore more secularized. The result is that people are losing their mind when others do not see politics or the world the same way they do. My opinion is that we should not be fighting a culture war in the first place. Our rage and commitment to winning arguments is not going to change the world. Deep down we know this, right? What will make a difference is if the world sees Christians entering into this suffering world with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
- Christians are angry because they care about the wrong things. You know how the story ends. Even after God explains that he is going to withdraw his judgment upon Nineveh Jonah heads up to a hill for a better view just in case God does decide to wipe them out. As Jonah is watching and waiting God provides a plant to give him some shade from the heat of the sun. Then God sends a worm to destroy the plant and Jonah’s response is that he would rather die than deal with the heat. What God was exposing in Jonah’s heart is that he cared more for his own comfort than he did the eternal destiny of the Ninevites. This begs the question, what do we care more about? Our material possessions, careers, success and comfort or to see people entering into the kingdom of God?
- Christians are angry because they are losing sight of the basics of the gospel. I really think this is the huge, underlying problem with how Christians are responding to our culture today. Jesus died for us when we were dead and lost in our sin. We were living a rebellious life and had done nothing to merit the compassion of Jesus. Yet Christ still pursued us out of a heart filled with great compassion. When we truly comprehend these gospel truths we discover that there is no room for unrighteous anger towards others who are lost without Christ. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” -Romans 2:4
Let’s be honest, being angry is the much easier option than living as people of compassion. When we are motivated by unrighteous anger we don’t need to bother with being led by the Holy Spirit. When we are angry we are more likely to stay in our house, behind our locked doors, and far away from others who are different than us. Compassion is going to require much more from us. The church is not called to simply vote for politicians who will meet the needs of our hurting world. The church is called to get involved itself and to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
So the question before us is the same one God asked Jonah at the end of chapter 4. Is it good for you to be angry?
Picture is taken from dailycallerdotcom