I have never been a parent, unless you want to count my cat. He is a true tomcat who prefers to watch you from a good five-foot distance. He does not want my bids for affection unless they involve some fish-flavored kibble or tuna flakes. Despite the claw and tooth scars I have to prove his need for independence, I continue to try to figure out ways to cuddle him and still respect his “space.” He has trained me to turn the tub faucet on at his command. I have learned to “punish” him with unwanted hugs even when I might want to knock him across the room instead.
If I, being human, can go through all of this for a furry “child,” how much more must my parents feel for me, how much more any parent must feel for his/her child, no matter how rebellious that child sometimes becomes. Even when a child goes against what his parents want him to do, I can understand how much the parent must long for the child to return to the roots of his raising again, or themselves struggle with trying to understand the world from their child’s perspective to find a place of restorative peace.
This Sunday, we are geared up to celebrate the most merciful “parent” of all time–our living God! His mercy is always present, always available, and always ours alone to lose because He has given us the free will to choose the gift of His grace which was His sacrifice on the Cross to bring us back into relationship with Him.
You will read a lot of Scripture from the New Testament this week if you are studying about Easter, but I want you to consider a passage from the Old Testament instead: the story of Jonah. When the reluctant prophet decides to do the job he didn’t want to take from God, the LORD doesn’t immediately destroy the people who don’t want to listen to Jonah’s message from God.
So, Jonah does what any of us humans would do at times like this. He pouts. He goes and sits at a distance from the town of Nineveh and waits for God to drop down the punishment God made Jonah go talk about. Instead of destroying the city, however, God has a plant grow over Jonah, offering the pouting prophet shade from the unrelenting sun. However, almost as quickly as it grew, the plant gets infected by a worm, withers and dies, leaving Jonah exposed to the elements again and ready to himself die:
Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”
Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (Jonah 4:9-11)
You might be tempted to read the Old Testament and think that God is a judgmental, even brutal, Creator. But, the Old Testament is as full of His merciful attitude as the New. Think about all the times that the people God talks to often argue with Him. There is more than one instance when a prophet will repetitively ask God, will you save the city if you can find 50 good people? 40 people? 20 people? 10? God patiently agrees each time. He tolerates a created thing that deigns to argue with its Creator! He wants to save not only the people of Nineveh, but the animals as well.
Don’t be surprised, then, when you discover that the God whose shoulders are big enough to take every complaint you have to hurl in His direction still loves you enough to die for you. He wants a relationship with YOU. And He is patient about waiting for you.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
I can’t rely on my cat for anything except his desire to be fed on a regular basis. Even my husband of twenty years sometimes gets angry with me. But God is the only ONE in my life who is reliably merciful. Read His word from beginning to end, forwards and backwards, and what you will discover is a God just waiting to show His love for you.
As you celebrate the risen Christ this Easter, don’t forget to celebrate His reliable mercy as well. He is waiting and much more ready to show you love than the anger we all deserve.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)