Not Today Lord!
How do you feel when someone does something despicable and then is made to pay the price? But what if, instead, they get forgiveness, acceptance and even love? And when you are the one in the wrong, do your feelings change?
When you read the book of Jonah in the Bible, you see God's idea of compassion and the prophet's come head-to-head. This isn't exactly that story, but if you've ever been confused or upset at the way God works, or if you ever really longed for someone to get what they “deserved”, maybe you can relate to the tale below. The Parable of Joanna “Not them, Lord; not there!” That was Joanna's response when God asked her to to go to Neverville. “I'm thrilled that You are finally going to destroy those horrible people, but why send me to warn them first? I mean, I'd love to see them squirm be
fore You wipe them out, but what if they take my message to heart and repent? I know You! You'll hear their cries and forgive them. They don't deserve Your forgiveness and I won't be a part of it!”
Finding a fishing boat going in the opposite direction of Neverville, Joanna crept aboard. She wormed her way down to a small nook in the hull, covered her head with her jacket and fell asleep. But God seldom takes “no” for an answer. A storm blew in and the crew knew there must be a reason behind it. “Who on this vessel has stirred the wrath of God?”, they wondered. After interrogating everyone who was supposed to be aboard, someone found Joanna sleeping among the fishing nets.
“Are you the reason we are all about to die in this storm?'', the captain yelled over the gusting wind. “I... could... be”, Joanna meekly replied. But then with anger, she explained, “See God wants me to do something that just doesn't make sense. You know all the things those people in Neverville do. There's no way God should forgive them! I'm sure you'll agree that I had no other choice than to flee!”
The captain saw her point and ordered his men to throw overboard everything that they could to lighten the ship and to row with all their might, but the storm got even worse. Seeing no other way out, the crew picked up Joanna and threw her overboard praying that God would forgive them. A huge fish swallowed Joanna whole and the storm abruptly stopped! The whole crew was amazed and praised God for His mercy! “Great!”, thought Joanna. Rather than getting to see the people of Neverville get destroyed, I get to be slowly digested by a stinky fish!”
“Oh Lord, I know I can never run from You! Now I am in the depth of the ocean with seaweed wrapped around my head. Please don't leave me here! I've learned my lesson. I know You are faithful and loving. I promise that I will obey You!” God heard Joanna's prayer and had compassion for her. The fish vomited her onto dry land. Not long after she got cleaned up, the Lord, again asked Joanna to go to Neverville. “I can do this”, Joanna told herself. “It only takes t
hree days to walk through the city. I'll tell them of God's wrath and be done with it. I'll climb the hill outside of the city and watch God rain fire and brimstone down on it!” But after only one day in the city, the Nevervillites began to repent. The king himself called on everyone to fast. He begged the people to turn from their wickedness and prayed for the Lord to forgive them. God saw that their repentance was sincere and felt compassion for them. He would not destroy them. 'Lord”, growled Joanna. “Isn't this just what I said would happen when I was still comfortably at home? This is exactly why I got in that wretched boat in the first place! I knew that You are too compassionate and would be gracious to those horrid people! They don't deserve it! I'd rather have died in the fish than see this! You should kill me now because this is so unfair!”
“Do you have a good reason to be angry with Me?” was all the reply she received. Hoping God would see His mistake and take care of Neverville the way they deserved. Joanna sat watching the city. It was hot, but to Joanna's delight, a plant sprang up provided the shade she needed. Just as Joanna was getting comfortable under the plant a huge, ugly worm came and ate it! Joanna was hot, tired and disgusted with everything. She just wanted to die! “Do you have a good reason to be angry with Me?”, God asked again, “So angry that you want to die? You had compassion on that silly plant tha
t you did nothing to take care of. It sprung up over night and withered just as quickly. Shouldn't I have compassion on the more than 120,000 people of Neverville that I created and who, like children, don't know right from wrong?
“You are right when you say that they don't deserve My love. Did you deserve compassion when you ran from Me? Did you deserve to be saved from the fish? Did you deserve to have the shade of that plant? “People tend to see love as something that can be bought and exchanged, like currency. But I asked you to come here so you would understand how high and deep and wide My love really is. For you as well as the people in Neverville! "If you truly wish to please Me, love like I love and forgive like I forgive.”