Jonah Chapter 3: Reach (Part 3)

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Chapter 3: Reach
Pt. 3 The Responses to Evil
Jonah 3:9-10 “‘Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.’ When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”

Allow me to clarify something right up front. There’s only one proper way to respond to the evil in your own life: Repent! We’ve already discussed that in chapter two, so we don’t need to repeat ourselves. But in case you’re still reading, and you haven’t had that time with God when you confessed your sin, and turned from it to God, please do that right now. You won’t be able to deal with the evil in other people’s lives until you deal with your own.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for what’s next. Jonah helps us to see the evil in this world and contrast it to how the Lord responds to it. Here’s the question that is naturally posed; How do I deal with wickedness that offends me? This is personal. We’re not talking about solving the problem of evil in the whole entire world, but rather responding to the evil that directly offends us. And I see only three possible responses.

1st. You can choose revenge – This is where you pummel the wrong doer. You are determined to hurt the person that hurt you. You believe very much in the “eye for an eye” philosophy of life. And most likely you believe, although nobody would admit it, that is how you should behave toward others but not so much how others should behave toward you, right? I don’t recommend this response. It doesn’t end well for anybody.

2nd. You can choose retreat – This is when, out of passivity, you just let it go but not in the healthy way. This is when you cannot get past it so you do nothing about it. Outwardly you seem to be fine but inwardly you are bitter and hurt. You go to your room and scream into your pillow. Maybe you pop in the head phones and zone out from the world. Perhaps your medication is a little more serious and damaging. This is more about running away than dealing with the evil.

Neither of these two options are better than the other, because you are responding to the hurt in unhealthy ways. Some people think, “Well I’m not hurting anybody if I bottle up.” But revenge and retreat are BOTH wrong, and do no good for you OR the wrongdoer.

Here’s the last option. This is the one we all need to aim for.  

3rd. You can choose to reach out – This is the forgiveness that God gives to the people of Nineveh and what he is trying to give Jonah. He is reaching out to them, not to exclude, but to include. This is not reaching out with a fist like revenge. This is not reaching out with a shove like retreat. This is reaching out with an open hand to offer forgiveness and love.

In the book, The Secret Garden, Colin is a cruel, spoiled, arrogant boy who makes the lives of his servants and nurses miserable. At first, you despise him in the book. But as you read on you realize this boy is really just afraid. Because all of his life he’s been told he wasn’t going to live long. That he would get a disease like his father and die. So he chooses to confine himself to his bed and order his servants and nurses around.

Until one day he meets his cousin, Mary. Of course, she doesn’t like him at first because of his demanding, selfish personality. He really was an evil little boy. But instead of getting some revenge on him or choosing to retreat from him, she begins to reach out to him. She talks to him about the beautiful things she had seen in the Secret Garden. She describes the adventures she had with the neighbor boy. She begins to encourage him to come outside with her and to see it all for himself. And through it all, she is really showing him that he is actually healthy and he isn’t going to die.

So as she reaches out to him with a love that he had never received before, he begins to soften. He stops throwing his tantrums and starts thinking about others. The evil in him was ruined when Mary reached out with forgiveness and love. The only way you will ever ruin evil in the world is by reaching out with forgiveness and love. That is the one response to evil that God has commanded.

If we fail to do this, if we choose to exact revenge or run away in retreat, we just become a part of the cycle of evil in the world. We are adding to the sinfulness of our own world, but God has called us to destroy the evil; to help bring forgiveness, love, and repentance to those around us.

That’s a lot easier said than done. Right now you might encouraged and thinking, “Yeah! I’m going to change the world with love!” And it all seems clear to you, right now. But tomorrow, when the bullies come around again, or the family member starts acting selfish again, or that coworker makes up another lie about you, this usually isn’t the first thing in our minds because it’s not natural. You’re going to have to work at this. It will require a good amount of effort. Are you up for it? I believe you are. I really do believe you can ruin evil in your world and bring forgiveness and salvation to those around you. Next month, I’ll show you exactly how this works.

James Robinson has been the Youth Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, TX since June 2014. He was drawn to work with students because he believes teenagers are in a highly moldable stage of life where it is absolutely imperative they allow the Gospel to identify who they are. As a Student Pastor, James says he has the inexpressible joy of regularly speaking that life-shaping Gospel into the students' lives.