“He prayed to the Lord. “Please Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster.” Jonah 4:2 CSB
I love Jonah. His honesty with the Lord is a great example for all of us. God sent Jonah on a mission to Ninevah to tell them to repent and turn towards Him. Jonah, not being a fan of the Ninevites, thinking they deserved to be destroyed, rebels against God. His rebellion gets him a luxury room in the belly of a whale for three days until he gets vomited out on shore. Jonah learns his lesson, goes to Ninevah and delivers the message God has given him. The Ninevites listen and repent, which saves the city from destruction and makes Jonah mad. We catch up with Jonah in the verse above when he’s explaining to God why he didn’t want to go in the first place. Jonah knew God would forgive them and not punish them.
I can relate to how Jonah is feeling. There are and have been people in my life that I would put in the land of the Ninevites. People that have hurt me, people that I don’t want to pray for, people that I don’t want to share the love of God with today. Yet that is not what God has commanded me to do. Jesus has told us what the greatest commandment is; love God, love others (Mark 12:30-31). No one is exempt from the love of God, no matter how I feel. God hasn’t sent me to Ninevah to tell them to repent, but He has told me I’m to love everyone He places before me. I cannot possibly accomplish my mission without God’s presence in my life. God has also taught me, sometimes the best way to love people is from afar. Not everyone is capable of receiving God’s love from Him or us for one simple reason, they don’t love themselves. The second half of Jesus’s command is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 NIV). If you don’t love yourself, you can’t share love with others.
Jesus never forces himself on us, and we shouldn’t force ourselves on others. If there is someone in your life today who is having a hard time receiving God’s love, lift them up in prayer. Ask God to open up the door of their hearts and let Him in to it. Pray specifically and ask God what you can do to show them love that they will be able to receive. Sometimes the best way to show people love is by giving them space to grow, sometimes it’s taking them to lunch. When we try to force God’s love on people, we just push them away. Whoever it is God is calling you to show love to today, ask Him what the best way to do it is. You’ll know, without a doubt, what you should do.