Friday, January 16, 2015

"Should I Not Spare Nineveh?"

It is hard to believe that we are in the midst of 2015.  We are about three weeks in and I have found myself reflecting on one of my "life's resolutions" that I made for the upcoming years.

One of the struggles I have encountered through out my life has been forgiveness.  Especially when I was the one that had been trespassed against.  I have studied the writings of the New Testament where one should turn thy cheek and forgive 70 times 70 and "I Lord forgive whom I forgive but you are to forgive everyone."

I remember one day a sweet adopted grand-ma was having a very bad day and she decided to take out her frustrations on me, w ho happened to be the one who entered her room.  As she verbally started chewing on me I found myself wanting to defend myself.  Just as I was about to open my mouth this scripture ran through my mind, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."  I was dumbfounded and just silently took her verbal abuse.  That was a powerful teaching moment for me.

A few years later I had been called to be the Teacher Development teacher in our ward.  During one of our classes I shared a story shared by President David O'McKay about how one will not jump into save a drowning person but will find a long stick to reach out to that person so that one could pull them to safety.  As I was sharing that story with the class another powerful lesson about forgiveness was going to be taught to me.

In my mind's eyes there was a person who had cut and wounded me very deeply who was drowning.  I was standing above him and yes I had picked up a stick but instead of offering it to him to pull him to safety, I was beating him with the stick.  Another powerful lesson for me that I needed to work on my forgiveness skills.

Years later a friend bought me a book called "The Peacegiver."  What a powerful book on the power of forgiveness and the Atonement.  It was within its pages I found the desire to make a new life resolution.

The author shares the story of Jonah, which really popped at me because for the last several months a trusted friend had been telling me to re read the story of Jonah.  The author explained to me the story of Jonah in a clearer light.  The author through a serious of questions caused me for one to do a lot of deep reflection which required some honest answers.

 "Have you ever fled to Tarshish?"
"Why did Jonah flee to Tarshish?"
 "To run from the Lord because he didn't want to go to Nineveh."
"Yes but why didn't he want to go to Nineveh?"
"Maybe cause he didn't like them."(page 92)

"Jonah did not like the Ninevites' and his reasoning was based on what they had done to his people and what they were yet to do his people."
"In Jonah's day, Nineveh was a major city within the Assyrian empire--soon to become its capital.  The Assyrians were a brutal, war-mongering people, feared by all around them....The Assyrians had been raiding the borders of the northern kingdom of Israel for years, collecting tribute from them as well."
"And Jonah knew from the words of fellow prophets that the Assyrians would soon destroy the northern kingdom and lead his people into captivity, which happened in 721 B.C."  (page 93)

"So how could Jonah work to save them?"  "Why would the Lord even ask him to?"
In Jonah's mind, "Nineveh didn't deserved to be saved.  And he, one of the aggrieved and mistreated, didn't deserve to be required to help them."    (page 93)

From my two before mentioned examples one can see that my attitude was very much like Jonah's and sadly I had to answer with an honest yes and had to look deeply inside to see that I too was trying to flee because I like Jonah did not like my Nineveh's and they did not deserve to be saved and how could the Lord ask me, the mistreated to reach out to them.  Powerful lesson for me.

The author continues to compare Jonah to Nineveh because Jonah feels "Nineveh doesn't deserved to be saved...but guess who else doesn't deserve to be saved?"   (pg 95)
Whether or not Nineveh is righteous is critical, of course--but only for Nineveh.  It has nothing to do with Jonah. And if he thinks it does--if he thinks he is more deserving because he is somehow better than Nineveh, then he in that moment becomes more 'Ninevitish' than the people he is blaming."
 (pg 97)
"...If he really is more righteous than they are because he will understand fully and deeply that he is entitled to nothing but hell.  At least in one sense, 'righteousness' is simply a humble understanding of how unrighteous one is, coupled with a deep commitment to be better.  The truth leaves no room for feelings of superiority.  Such feelings are nothing but lying vanities."
"...Relative righteousness means nothing.  Whether Jonah was better or worse than Nineveh isn't the question at all...Some laborers work longer, the Savior told us in one of his parables...Each person's payment at the end of the day has nothing whatsoever to do with the work of others.  We are each working out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord.  And that gift will come to us only if we know in our hearts that we deserve it nor more than anyone else."
Our "fleeing to Tarshish is the persisting idea that we are better, more righteous, and deserve more than others.  The truth is, we are all, each of us, equally damned without the mercy of the Lord.  Eternal life is a gift.  I have no cause to feel entitled.  I have cause only to feel grateful." (Pgs 98-99)
Ouch....those verses really hit home with me and gave me a lot to reflect on.

We know that Jonah preached for 40 days to Nineveh.  The author told the story on how much Jonah "liked" delivering the message because he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed and was "Eager for the 'Ninevites' destruction,,,"  (Pg 103)  I still see in my minds eye me whacking the heck out of the drowning person who had so wronged me with the stick....I like Jonah enjoyed his despair.

We know from the story that the people of Nineveh repented and the Lord withdrew his sentence of destruction.  I don't remember reading in the story the reason Jonah was sitting in the hot sun on that hill but in the book the author tells that Jonah spent "24 hours demanding that the Lord follow through and destroy the Ninevite's and angrily he remained on the hill hoping to witness the "hoped" destruction. (Pg 103)

The author then brings up key points which causes the reader serious reflection:

"1.  The Lord commands Jonah to preach against the wicked Ninevites
2.  Jonah sins, not wanting Nineveh to be saved
3.  Jonah repents and the Lord saves Jonah

3.  Nineveh repents and the Lord saves Nineveh
2.  Jonah sins, not wanting Nineveh to be saved
1.  The Lord asks Jonah a question:  Should I not spare Nineveh?"  (pg 105)

The author then closes this powerful chapter with this thought:

"It's no accident,...that the very center statement of the book of Jonah, which appears in the middle of the center elements of the chasms, with 24 verses preceding it and 23 verses following reads:
'They that observe lying vanities: Has forgotten his own prior sin; he has forgotten the mercy extended to him by the mariners, who tried to spare him even when they knew he was the cause of their troubles; he has forgotten the ultimate mercy of the Lord, who delivered him even though he didn't deserve it; and he is therefore blind to his own 'Nineveh-ness'--to show he, himself, is Nineveh.  Failing to see mercifully, his heart, mind and eyes are lying to him.  All he can see is that he is 'right,' 'entitled,' 'deserving,.'  Observing 'lying vanities,' he is in danger of 'forsaking his own mercy.' And feeling no personal mercy, he is locked in despair."  (pg 107)

I am so grateful for a friends insight to give me the book "The PeaceGiver" and also the insight from another friend to study the story of Jonah.  I have learned so much from quiet reflection and the authors insightful insight.  In closing I leave this question open to those who read this post,

"Should I not Spare Nineveh?"

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