Friday, March 28, 2014

Living the Good Life: She Reads Truth Reflection, Jonah

Continuing with #SheReadsTruth #SheSharesTruth Weekly Reflections

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Text: Jonah 3:1-10, Jonah 4:1-11

Got up early to spend time in the word: check.
Made my kids a nice breakfast: check.
Greeted hubby with a kiss: check.
Cleaned up house: check.
Started laundry: check.
Ran errands: check.
Smiled at everyone I made eye contact with: check.
Sent a couple of encouraging emails, text messages: check.
Made freezer meals for a friend in need: check.
Ate dinner as a family: check.
Played with the kids, undistracted: check.
Had craft time with the girls: check.
Read Bible stories at bed time: check.
Put kids to bed: check.
Went to bed early: check.

Checklist complete, feeling pretty good about myself.  I had a good day; I'm such a good person.

Good.

What do we mean by that?  You'll hear things like, "He's such a good guy," or, "I don't go to church but I'm a good person."  Good as in not bad?  Great, but do any of us truly believe that about ourselves?  I mean, for years I've had people speak more highly of me than I knew to be true because I've always worked to be a good person.  I've always felt like such a hypocrite because while others were lauding praise about my behavior, my faith, my whatever, inside I knew I was a gossip and liar, an ungrateful, unsatisfied, selfish person.  Inside the good exterior, I was rotten.

And, "I live assuming I am not alone in these weaknesses.  Mostly because I know a lot of people" (Jennie Allen, Anything).

Allen also says, "A person can learn the right behavior for any character quality."  Want me to be good?  I'll paste a smile and help somebody out.  Want me to be kind?  I'll share my favorite toy.  Want me to be compassionate? I'll sit with someone who's crying.  We think we can appear to have it all together, all the while creating lives that don't need God.  And Christ came and turned that kind of good behavior on its head.  Goodness was the biggest fight he picked.  Over and over he chided the spiritual leaders for their supposed goodness (which really was just masked self-righteousness).  Allen says, "What if this very thing we're striving for (goodness) is what's keeping us from God?"  And the prophet Isaiah tells us our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment to the Lord (if He is not the center of them).

We see this kind of behavior on full display in the prophet Jonah in the final two chapters of the book as he finally "obeys" God and preaches repentance to his enemies, the wicked Ninevites.  I can't help but wonder if his obedience was simply goodness.  "Want me to obey?  I'll go.  Doesn't mean you, Lord, are at the center of it.  I just prefer to not be swallowed by another big fish."  And the reason I suppose that God isn't at the center of it is that after witnessing hundreds of thousands of Ninevites repent and God's awesome mercy on display, this good man doesn't rejoice!  He throws a temper tantrum!

He stomps off into the dessert and pouts.  But God.  In his ever lovingkindness, provides a plant for shade, and Jonah can't help but be satisfied in it.  But when God causes the plant to wither the next day, Jonah is again furious.  See, God--after all Jonah has been through--is still not at the center of Jonah's life.  Jonah's standing still, expecting God to orbit him.  So this good man throws another fit.  How dare a loving God kill his plant?  And God?  Well, lets look at the text.

Then the Lord said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow which came up overnight and perished overnight.  Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left as well as many animals?"  (Jonah 4:10-11) 

So God extends mercy to the worst of sinners and good people are upset by it.  But the GOOD NEWS is that even in our self-righteousness, our self-centered lives, are self-goodness, Christ came to provide mercy for good people, too.  The Apostle Paul was one of those spiritual leaders Christ preached against.  No doubt he believed he was a good man, but once Christ is the center of his life, he tells Timothy, "Even though I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy . . ." (1 Timoth 1:13).

We can continue living good lives that have no need for God, convincing ourselves we are O.K. even when we know at our core we are rotten, or we can call on our savior to show us mercy, come face to face with our sin, and live a redeemed life.  May we rejoice in the mercy found in our Savior!
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