This morning I read the book of Jonah. I know the story well from Sunday school and Veggie Tales. But I can’t remember if I’ve actually read the whole story from the Bible. In Sunday school, we are taught that the moral of the story is obedience to God. The teachers emphasize the importance of following God no matter what. (Because who wants to end up in the belly of a whale?!)
But as I read Jonah this morning, a new message was imprinted upon my heart. At the end of the book, Nineveh repents from its sin and God chooses to forgive the city. Jonah is indignant that God would choose to forgive this evil nation. He finds a spot outside of the city to watch what happens to Nineveh. God causes a plant to grow to shield Jonah from the sun. The next morning, God appoints a worm to eat that same plant. Jonah wakes up angry. He is sweltering in the sun and Nineveh is still standing.
Jonah 4:10-11, ESV
And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Nineveh consists of people—people who God created and loves. He felt the pain as they stopped loving Him, and now He is willing to extend His mercy when they repent.
God spoke to me through Jonah in two ways this morning.
#1: Every person is important.
God created each and every person uniquely. And He loves each the same. They are His creation, so even when they mess up, He continues to love.
I am trying to see the people around me as God sees them. Every person here on campus is God’s child. Each person is in need of His love. No matter how they act, what they wear, or what they believe. I think that if I begin to see people as God’s creation, I will begin to love more. Instead of wishing punishment on those who make me angry or hurt others, I am praying that my response can be one of love. My roommate and I have been trying to embrace grace, even when people don’t seem deserving of our grace. Because God extends His grace to all people.
#2: People are my calling.
At college, it is so easy to get caught up in the constant stream of activities and responsibilities. Especially at William & Mary, there is also a pressure to achieve academic success and be constantly involved.
My senior year in high school, I think I finally began to realize that people are more important than school. Relationships have the potential to last; grades won’t.
College is the perfect opportunity to do ministry. People are a constant. I live on a hall with 27 other girls—each of them desperately in need of a Savior. There are endless opportunities to interact with people. But school and sleep call.
School is important. Sleep is important. But people are more important.
I am concentrating on embracing people. I am working to accept that sleep can wait when there are girls hanging out in my room. That an assignment can wait while I grab lunch with a friend. That my project can wait when a classmate needs help with hers. Putting people first is hard. But I am learning that when I put God’s priorities first, the other things will fall into place. “It will get done,” is the refrain that my roommate and I sing through the day.
God’s heart is for people. Our heart should in turn beat for people. People are our calling.
– – Phebe