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The Problem with Love



There’s a tendency in us to run from the leadership of God, and there’s a tendency in God to chase after us. We love that about Him when it involves us or people we like, but what about when that same grace is extended to our enemies?

Key Takeaway

"I am Jonah." My tendency is to run from the authority of God, to love the grace He offers to me, but to not want that grace extended to my enemies...people that God has created. God can change your heart and He will turn it towards those He loves.

Jonah brought the message of God's judgment to the people of Nineveh and they all repent. So what displeased Jonah so much? The repentance of Nineveh and God relenting on bringing calamity upon them.

Hebrew humor is found in wordplay. The Hebrew word for "bad" can mean a moral bad, a bad event, or to feel bad. There is no word for "exceedingly" or "extremely", they just repeat the word. So the text is saying that Nineveh repented from their bad, God relented from pouring out bad, and all that made Jonah feel bad. Jonah did not like that God was forgiving them. He knew God would accept their repentance. Jonah wanted the grace of God for himself, but not grace for them. When God asks if his anger is good, Jonah walks away (runs from God).

Why did Jonah hate the Ninevites so much?

1) They were the capital city of Assyria and they had humiliated Jonah's people.

2) When they captured God's people, they stripped them of everything and took whatever they wanted.

3) Jonah knew their history and other prophets had spoken of what they would do in the future.

Therefore, Jonah wanted God's grace for himself, God's judgment for them; God's love for himself, God's punishment for them. Jonah's problem was with love just like our problem is with love. Incivility quickly becomes hostility in our society. The world constantly pushes it...divide, divide, divide.

When God asks Jonah if he is right to be mad, Jonah says "Yes!" Why? Because righteous indignation is so satisfying. We love to be right and to lord it over those who are wrong. Jonah's problem is not doctrinal or theological...He knows full well the characters of God. He quotes Old Testament passages about God being gracious, merciful, and abounding in love. The point is that throughout the entire book, we've seen our tendency to run from God's authority and His tendency to chase. He interrupts our self-destructive behavior. Jonah sings His praises when He rescues him, but hates that He does the same for others. God calls Jonah on it.

How does God expose this in us?

-By messing with our "darling sins". It's easy to love everyone generally, but much harder when it gets specific.


To love people means to not view pornography. It damages people on both sides of the screen. So, by consuming it, you are saying, "I love me and what I want more than I care about them."

To love my parents means to honor, forgive, and cherish them. However, it feels better to stay angry and resentful towards them. "I love myself for them."

To love people means not spending my money on constant entertainment and toys. I don't look around and meet needs. "I don't do that because I love me more than I care for you."

We are Jonah. What does God do with people like us? He has blessed us with life, breath, and everything else, but we withhold it from others.

-God doesn't give up on Jonah and He's not going to give up on you. He loves you right where you are and He loves you too much to let you stay there. His grace will love you at your lowest and draw you to Himself. He will extend that grace to your enemies and ask you to join in with Him.

God teaches Jonah that He's not giving up on him through some real-life visuals.

-God gives Jonah a little plant to shade him. It's a creature's comfort. Ours are computers, phones, cars, wardrobes, looks, wit, etc. It's what you turn to when everything feels chaotic, it makes you happy.

-God sends a little worm to eat the plant, which causes Jonah to become very angry.

God asks Jonah if he is right to be angry about the plant being eaten. Jonah says "Yes! So much I could die over it!" God points out that Jonah has nothing to do with the creation or destruction of the plant, but has more pity that it was destroyed than he pities people. Jonah pitied a plant, should God not have even more pity for a lost people?

Interesting side note: in Jonah 1, when he is running from God, God sends a great storm and a great fish, but in Jonah 4, when he is running again, God sends a little plant and a little worm. Why? God's got the whole world in His hands, God will use all of it to help our heart beat like His. Creation always immediately does what God tells it to do, yet the man of God is resistant. It's meant to shame us.

We are meant to be people that receive the love of God, so we extend the love of God. Love embraced is love extended. Those who know grace, show grace.

How do we love people we hate?

1) You find compassion when you consider they are made in the image of God.

2) They are ignorant. They're like children, they spiritually do not understand what they are doing. They're held captive, so pray for their redemption and rescue.

3) Consider the cross. God is full of grace for His enemies and praise God because you were one of them until you accepted His grace for you. It won't be long before He turns your face towards those you can't stand and asks you to be an instrument of grace in their life.

If you've never known the grace of God- come home. You are not too far gone. Ask Jesus to save you. He turns rebels who run into revolutionaries who run with Him to love.

If you love God and have tasted His grace, but you care more about your creature comforts than the people that God loves- repent.

Both groups say, "I am Jonah" and look to God for salvation.


'"Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling." And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.'

Corrie Ten Boom

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Scripture References

  • Jonah 4
  • Jonah 3
  • Jonah 3:8-10
  • Romans 5:5
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.