Bill Watterson humorously captures in this simple frame an axiom we have all heard and tried to apply as followers of Jesus: Love the sinner, hate the sin.
In this regard C.S. Lewis made this keen observation: “I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”
Jonah had no love for the wicked people of Nineveh. He monumentally failed to make the distinction between sin and sinner, and what is more troubling is that he seems to have failed to see the gravity of his own sin and his desperate need for God’s mercy. There are some important lessons for us in this second half of Jonah’s story.
Pray: As you begin your meditation on Jonah this week, you might read Psalm 107 (especially note the pattern and the central theme!) and allow this psalm to inform your prayer.
Read: Read Jonah 1-4.
Meditate: We will be focusing on chapters 3-4 in read about Jonah’s and Nineveh’s repentance. But the story line really concerns God’s amazing mercy and Jonah’s anger over God’s mercy. Irony abounds in this story!