At the heart of the story of Jonah is God’s radical call to His people to live in a different way to the world, and to love and forgive our enemies.
Assyria was a brutal, cruel empire, that had extended its borders by invading and laying siege to cities, and crushing them under their military force and power. Their methods included beheading and even impaling Judeans (God’s people)
(see the Lachish Reliefs for more historical insight into Assyria)
Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian empire, was Jonah’s worst enemy.
In Jonah chapter 3 we see the greatest revival in the old testament, that included the king, the crowds and even the cattle! But we see in the beginning of chapter 4 that Jonah was livered.
Here are some discussion questions for you to reflect on:
- reflect on how it would have felt for Jonah to be asked by God to go with a message specifically to Nineveh.
- Read Matthew 5:43-48 – Jesus’ instruction of enemy love. What jumps out at you? If the greek word for ‘enemy’ that Jesus uses means a ‘broad wide-sweeping word for everyone you struggle to get along with”, what would Jesus’ instruction here look like in your life? Who are you being challenged to forgive and love?
- Read and reflect on the following quote by Martin Luther King:
I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say:”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you.
Throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you.
But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
R T Kendall has an exceptional book on Total Forgiveness. Below are some ‘signs’ of complete and full forgiveness according to him.
- You don’t tell anyone what is done to you.
- Don’t let them fear you
- Don’t let them feel guilty
- You let them save face
- You protect them from their dark secret
- You bless them
Consider for a moment how Jesus has forgiven you ‘while you were his enemy’ (see Romans 5:1).
Perhaps haps ask Jesus to speak to you of who you need to forgive so that you can love fully and completely. Ask Jesus to help you, as you work towards becoming more like him – gracious, merciful, forgiving, and loving even of his enemies.