Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. (Jonah 3:4-5)
If you remember the story of Jonah, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the time he spent in the belly of the giant fish. But the story is not about surviving the fish. The story is about Jonah’s transformation into someone who is willing to do what God desires. His time in the fish happened when he was fleeing from God’s call. Survival was enough to get him to rethink his stance on what God wanted.
Jonah was opposed to giving the people of Nineveh another chance. He didn’t like them and hoped they would get their due. God’s desire to help people that Jonah didn’t want helped simply made Jonah mad.
The good news of God’s desire to be merciful had a huge impact on the people of Nineveh. They repented and eventually rejoiced at the chance at new life.
This week is All Saints Sunday. It is a time to remember those who have gone before us. Often, we think of these ancestors with fondness. Sometimes we remember them and we are bitter. Jonah’s story is a chance to come to terms with our own residual grudges and hurts. No matter how legitimate they may be, the call of faithfully following Jesus is to “love our neighbor as our self.” With that calling comes the call to desire what is good, even for those people we feel the worst about.
Perhaps you have some residual anger toward someone with whom it is now too late to make up. Perhaps you haven’t really thought about letting go of whatever it is that causes the hurt – you have just hung on to it. The phrase, “Let go and let God,” may be helpful here. In God’s mercy, there is hope. In clinging to God’s mercy, we discover new life for ourselves and others as well.