When Jonah finally got his directions straight and went to preach to Nineveh, he was distraught because they heeded his warnings about God’s coming judgment, and God showed them mercy by reneging on his intention to destroy the city. Turns out this is exactly what Jonah was afraid would happen, and that’s why he didn’t want to go there in the first place. In this case, Jonah was all over justice being done, but the city got mercy instead.
Justice and mercy are two sides of God that come together in Christ. The cross of Christ is both the justice of God and the mercy of God. It is the justice of God in that it is the payment for sin. If you’ve ever wished an evil act would get its proper due, that wish was fulfilled in the cross. The cross catches the human race in the act of sin and disobedience. It’s the bad guys getting what they deserve. But it is also the mercy of God in that Christ is on it and not you or me. Christ is on it in our place, and that’s where this gets personal. Everybody gets it, even the bad guys I wish God’s judgment on. If I want mercy for myself, I have to allow it for everyone else with no partiality. This is the lesson Jonah had to learn and I’m not so sure he learned it. Nineveh repented of it’s evil ways, but there is no indication that Jonah repented of his judgment without mercy.
Mercy is such good news. It is good news for everyone, but especially for me, because I know my sin better than anyone, but it must be given to be received. You can’t receive mercy and still make everyone around you pay. If you get mercy, they get it — even the worst of them — the ones you hope you don’t see in heaven.
We may need to make some adjustments in our thinking.