Monday, May 2, 2011

What's Your Ninevah? by Serena Haneline

Christian Clip Art source
Difficult, sinful people are hard to deal with, especially when you’re like me, someone who tends to value justice over mercy. One time I was talking with two coworkers about another coworker who had done something we thought was particularly sinful. Then one coworker said, “You know, we want grace for our own mistakes, but we want justice for the mistakes of others.”

Those words made a deep impression on me. Then one day I was reading the story of Jonah: the prophet who was swallowed by a fish. Little did I realize at first that his story is a story of grace versus justice.
It all began when God called Jonah to go tell the evil city of Ninevah to repent or the Lord would destroy them. For Israel, the Assyrians were their mortal enemies. This is like being called by God to go to Germany, specifically Hitler, in the middle of World War Two. It’s no wonder that Jonah instead high tailed it south to Jaffa to board a ship going in the opposite direction. 

Christian Clip Art source
Then God sent a fierce storm to rock the boat Jonah was hiding in. After the sailors throw him overboard, God provided a great fish or whale to swallow Jonah alive. There was a saying during the war that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” We could say the same thing about Jonah: There are no atheists inside the belly of whales. When Jonah found himself in the whale, the first thing he did was call out to the Lord. 

After three days, the whale vomited him onto land. It was his final chance to do what God called him to do. So he does and the people respond by believing God, fasting, and turning from their evil ways!
However, Jonah was angry! He wanted God to destroy them, like in fire and brimstone from heaven. What is interesting though is the word translated “destroy” in Hebrew can mean “to overthrow, to turn around, to change or transform.” And God did indeed “transform” that city!

Jonah preaches in Ninevah
Yet Jonah, who had just experienced the tremendous grace of God, is mad! So God teaches him a lesson by making a plant spring up to give him shade. Then the next day, God lets a worm eat the plant. Jonah complained and wanted to die.
Christian Clip Art source
Then God said, “You are concerned about a vine that you did not plant or take care of, a vine that grew up in one night and died the next. In that city of Nineveh there are more than a hundred twenty thousand people … Don't you think I should be concerned about that big city?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

The story of Jonah is a story of grace winning over justice. For God does not wish that any be overthrown, but be transformed. Who is your Ninevah? Who has God called you to help, yet your heart remains hardened toward them, demanding justice rather than grace? Will your life be one of grace, or justice? 

Serena Haneline lives and works in China Grove, NC. She does office work for a family-owned preschool, and practices public speaking in her spare time. 

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  1. Good job, Serena. Keep this up and you are going to be rich and famous someday. This would look very good in something like Guideposts. This would also make a good sermon. I am proud of you!!

  2. Great job, Serena! I'm proud of you for taking the plunge. What a joy to see what God is doing in and through you!

  3. Serena,
    You've figured out that writing is just speaking on paper. Excellent, excellent, excellent!

  4. I would love to see you get this out to more people. It is a very good thoughtful story. Speak to the magnitude with the written word.


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