Summary: God challenges us to rethink our attitudes and actions toward all people.
Recap the story of Jonah for those who may not know the story…
Title: Does God Really Care About Everyone?
Text: Jonah 3:1-10
Thesis: God challenges us to rethink our attitudes and actions toward all people.
Westboro Baptist is a church in Topeka, Kansas whose members say that “God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes.” They take exception to talk about the love of God and are a virulently homophobic, anti-semantic hate group that believes America is a doomed country. They base their assumptions on the conviction that their understanding and interpretation of the bible is the only legitimate one.
They regularly picket and stage protests around the country and may be seen holding signs that state: “God Hates Israel!” Thank God for 9/11! God Is Angry Everyday! “God Hates Fags!” And Thank God for Dead Soldiers!”
When Elizabeth Edwards died from cancer the Westboro Baptist Church published a news release of their intent to picket her funeral because when “God visited them (the Edwards) with the death of their 16 year old son, they did not humble themselves before God’s almighty hand.”
They actually planned to picket the funerals of the victims who died in the Joplin, Missouri tornado last year. They believe that the tornado was divine judgment against the people of Joplin, Missouri and that all natural disasters are God’s judgment against America.
It is hard to imagine anyone celebrating the judgment of God on anyone. However I can understand how a person might hesitate to extend the grace of God to some people. I understand that there is “honor among thieves” so to speak and that social hierarchies do indeed exist even in our penal system. Apparently, unless given protective custody, informants and pedophiles have a very short life expectancy if they are incarcerated in the general prison population. We may have our own hierarchy of behaviors we consider unforgivable and most deserving of eternal damnation.
Transition: I suspect we do as well.
I. We may be reluctant to see others as recipients of God’s grace.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God… abounding in love.” Jonah 4:1-3
When God initially instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh in 1:2, God described Nineveh as a great city but a very wicked city. The nature of its wickedness is not explained but historians tell us Assyria was among the most evil of empires in history.
Some of you remember the days of the Cold War and of how “back in the day” President Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as “The Evil Empire” in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, FL on March 8, 1983.
More recently in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002, President G.W. Bush spoke of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as “The Axis of Evil.”
The Ancient Military History web site cites the 5 Most Evil Empires in History as:
1. 3rd Reich 1933-1945
2. Assyrian Empire 911-605 BC
3. Stalin’s USSR 1922-1953
4. Aztec Empire 1376-1521 AD
5. Khmer Rouge 1975-1979
The Old Testament Books of Kings and Chronicles talk about the Assyrian Empire. They were notorious for terrorizing their neighbors and deporting entire populations and carrying them off into exile. They were indescribably brutal… kings were known to order the flaying of people alive for his dinner entertainment. They were feared and hated by all. (ancientmilitaryhistory.com)
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. It was a vast city on the east bank of the Tigris River near what we now know as Mosul in northern Iraq. Jonah could not conceive of the people of Nineveh as deserving of grace and mercy. In Jonah’s mind, the thought that God might spare the evil people of Nineveh was just plain wrong!
Transition: And to think God would want him to be an agent of grace to people so undeserving was just plain wrong and out of the question. We, like Jonah may not only be reluctant, we may be down right resistant!
II. We may be resistant to our role in sharing God’s grace.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, “Go down to Ninevah…” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish… to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1:1-3
When Jonah thought of going to Nineveh and of the possibility that God might actually be gracious to such a people he could not bring himself to be God’s agent of grace and mercy.
Illustration: A few days ago the Governor of Mississippi handed out 193 pardons during his final days in office. Five of the men pardoned had worked odd jobs at the governor’s mansion while serving their sentences… four of whom are convicted murderers. In that the pardons seemed to have been done in haste and without having followed protocol there has been a huge public outcry resulting in a Mississippi judge blocking the release of 21 inmates who received full pardons.