Today in my home state of Iowa the presidential campaign gets its official start with the caucus, a time of conversation and interaction on candidates concluding with a vote. It seems that this presidential cycle will be one of the most rancorous and cantankerous ones in American history (probably not to be outdone by the campaign of John Adams versus Thomas Jefferson, which was fearmongering at its highest). There is, unfortunately, enough anger to go around on both sides of the Democrats and Republicans. Fear and anger always go hand in hand. The fear of which direction our nation is headed has led to vicious vitriol not only in public displays but in private conversations at workplaces and even churches.
All this fear and anger is quite reminiscent of the Old Testament prophet, Jonah. The powerful Assyrians were the terrorists of the ancient world. They inspired fear wherever they went, which meant Jonah’s anger was not far behind. In an incredible divine intervention, God used Jonah to preach against them which resulted in a national repentance. Yet, instead of joy and gratitude for God’s mercy, Jonah wanted some payback. He seemed to believe that the Assyrians needed judgment, not grace. So, through an object lesson with a vine, God taught Jonah what was most important: “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left?”
We ought to not be too quick to see the hate and discrimination in Jonah. When our fears turn to anger and we believe that God should bomb Muslims off the face of the earth; when we think our neighbors might be harboring ill-intent just because they are of a different race, ethnicity, or religion; when we have become bitter because of real evil present in this world and want at least a little payback; then, we are no better than Jonah and look just as ridiculous sitting at the edge of the city pouting like a little child.
Let us rise above the current rancor and be concerned for the billions of people on this earth who need divine intervention and the grace of repentance that leads to new life. Let us reflect our Lord’s ways by praying for our enemies and doing good works to those who oppose us. Let us gain the heart of God for the nations of the world and remember what is really important in life. Any fool can rant against another; but the wise and gracious follower of God patiently and carefully prays and acts in ways that brings Jesus to others.
Merciful God, your presence of love in this world is truly amazing. Despite the real existence of evil on this earth, your grace cuts through it all and has the last word. Work in my life in such a way that fear is done away with and sinful anger vanishes, to be replaced with the love of Jesus Christ. Amen.