With all that is happening in life, with all the goals and ambitions we set for ourselves, with all the hopes and things we plan and strategize to achieve, it becomes very easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and forget those around us.
This reality hit home recently while listening to a sermon where the speaker delved into the story of Jonah. In examining the true reason Jonah fled from God, the speaker sought to compare Jonah’s lack of compassion to our modern day reality and how it hinders us from really making an impact around us.
After running from God, and having to return in obedience to warn the people of Nineveh, the people repented and Jonah was angered.
“He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah chapter 4 verse 2
So easily, we become preoccupied with our own lives, so easily we become judges of those around us who we believe should be punished for the wickedness that they commit. In reflection, I can easily remember instances where I would have wanted someone who treated me unfairly to reap the harsh consequences for their actions. But, when did we become God, the righteous judge who decides the consequences for people’s actions?
Our world is increasingly becoming and may I dare say it, like Nineveh, where the sins of our countries and people are becoming harder to ignore. Increasingly our hearts are burdened by the news of missing girls, gang violence, domestic and child abuse and the list goes on. We are becoming more concerned, more burdened and less compassionate.
Compassion as I understand it, moves individuals past empathy into action.
Ironic isn’t it, that Jonah, a prophet and servant of the Lord, would be angered that the warning from God would move the people to repentance; “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (Jonah Chapter 3 verse 5).
Why do we become heartbroken about the wickedness that happens around us, the death of young men because of gang involvement, the stealing that occurs in our nation and the poverty that keeps rising in our communities? Why do we discuss it amongst ourselves and become burdened as we reflect on its impact but we are never moved by compassion to act?
Many of us may have read the story of Jonah and never really envisioned just how Jonah’s response continues to be our response to the ills of our nations.
Naturally, we are quick to condemn wickedness. Recent activities around the world showcase how easy it is for people to protest against what they consider to be injustice toward mankind. As humans we feel, we hurt and we believe that if we are wronged, people must pay.
Of course there are consequences for every action and yes if you do the crime you should pay the time.
Christ’s outlook however, is very different and must characterize our Christian living.
“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah chapter 3 verse 10).
Compassionate in Action
The God we serve is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. Should we, as followers of Christ, not personify these characteristics? Absolutely. We are stewards of what belongs to God. We are His hands and feet.
It is my belief that as the world evolves; as it continues to promote self-achievement and self-love; we will hear more stories of hurt, desolation and violence. We will become more isolated and depressed with no moral guide to direct our actions hence separating us from community of Christ which exists to strengthen, encourage and transform us.
I also believe that even then, our God will continue to speak to the hearts of those who serve him, to proclaim the gospel and the message of repentance. My hope is that as our compassionate God beckons to us, like Jonah, we will not seek to flee because of our own judgements and belief of punishment. Instead, my prayer is that we would be filled with Godly compassion that pushes us into action. “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah chapter 4 verse 11).
Let us see our neighbours, our communities and our nation as Christ does. May our empathy – our feeling of awareness toward people, push us to have compassion - an emotional response that creates a desire to help, so that we will be the change we want to see, by the transformative power of Almighty God.
Dacia Miller from Jamaica, West Indies is a wife, mother and trained communicator who enjoys dancing. She is involved in youth ministry and loves to see lives transformed.