What made Jonah think running away to Tarshish was a good idea? He knew God could find him wherever he went. Maybe he figured that if he was in Spain, he couldn’t be preaching in Nineveh. Because no matter what God said, Jonah absolutely positively didn’t want to preach to his enemies.

Jonah’s prayer started out like a praise song. God was gracious and compassionate. He would rather love us than respond in anger. God relented from sending calamity if there was any other way to bring us to himself.

But Jonah made those attributes of God sound like a bad thing. The very qualities of God that kept him alive for three days in the belly of the whale were bad news when it came to Israel’s enemies. What a dilemma for Jonah: his deep-seated hatred for his country’s enemies caused him to oppose God.

I felt a similar sense of dread in working with ex-cons. I mentioned it at church one day, adding that I knew my attitude displeased God. A few months later, God led me to minister in a church made primarily of — you guessed it — ex-cons. What a learning curve! Working side by side with them gave me a new understanding. I confess I never felt entirely at home in that church, but it was an important part of my spiritual life.

When God calls us to do something that goes against our nature, do we embrace the calling? Or do we try to flee to Tarshish?

Lord, forgive me when I harbor a superior attitude that shuts out other people as unworthy of your love. Open the eyes of my heart to understand that your grace and compassion extend to all people. Amen.

Go Deeper — Write down five good deeds you never ever want to do. What if God asked you to do one of them? What would your reaction be? What would help you choose to obey him?

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Photo Credit: Jorge Lopez