So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. The he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. – Jonah 3:3-4 NKJV.
When I was in the eighth grade, I had the unpleasant experience of attending shop class with a bully. He was a head or two taller than any of us. He had failed a couple of grades and moved to our little school from a large school in California. His name was Gene, and Gene’s entertainment consisted of making life miserable for others; each day he would pick on someone. My turn finally came when he had me down on the ground hitting me, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it. Gene moved after that year, and I have not heard what became of him. For several years even after becoming a Christian, I could have cared less about what had happened to Gene, but I did finally forgive him (And, pray for him….).
Jonah had a problem with an even larger bully. The bully was the evil nation called Nineveh and the Ninevites who lived there. We know the story. The word of the Lord came to Jonah to go and preach in that evil place. Jonah, we know refused, until he had a little attitude adjustment in the belly of the great fish. The word of the Lord came to Jonah again, and the second time Jonah went to Nineveh there was a great revival. Jonah only had a one-sentence sermon, but it was enough to bring the city to its knees.
What was the biggest obstacle to revival in Nineveh? Jonah was the biggest obstacle. One self-righteous person stood in the way of the greatest revival of the ancient world. The word of the Lord came to me about my bully. He has been on my prayer list for many years now. I do not know where he is, but God does. Any old bullies, antagonists, Ninevehs you’re still having bad thoughts about?
I’m not sure that Jonah ever forgave the Ninevites for the evil acts that they had committed. However, if we want to have peace and be in a right relationship with our Lord; we must forgive those who do us wrong. Why? Because, our Lord has forgiven us. Jesus teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Revenge, getting even, getting back at someone is always much more enjoyable than extending forgiveness. Forgiving someone is always difficult when their offense against you is serious. It is only through the power of God that we can forgive those offenses. In 1947, Corrie ten Boom came face to face with a former concentration camp guard who had been one of her and her sister’s tormentors during that difficult time in which her sister Betsie died. The former guard was now a Christian. He extended his hand toward Corrie and asked her to forgive him. Corrie knew that forgiveness was an act of the will, but still it was so very hard. She silently prayed for Jesus to help her. She lifted her hand, and as she grasped his hand she was able to say that she forgave him. As she did so, tears came to her eyes, and she was able to hug him and call him her brother. Corrie said that was the most intense moment of experiencing God’s love in all of her life. Incredible!
It could be that if you have a lack of joy and a lack of peace in your life that you need to forgive someone. It will not be easy, but in the act of forgiving; you will experience the love of God, and you may also gain an opportunity to share the love of God.
(Jonah was the greatest obstacle to revival in Ninevah. In a similar way our lack of forgiveness may be the greatest obstacle to someone coming to know Jesus as their Savior.)