Jonah 4:1-4. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
What makes you angry? Can you recall the last time you felt anger about something? Did you do well to be angry (was your anger right)?
Jonah is a story about anger. Jonah is the prophet that, very reluctantly, obeys God, calling for the wicked city of Nineveh to repent. And it works. The whole city turns from evil, and is spared from the judgment of God. And this make Jonah very angry. Angry at God.
Usually we get angry at God when we think that he is being too harsh or unfair, too judgmental. But Jonah is angry at God for being gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. In fact, Jonah is so angry that he asks to die.
And then, like a patient dad, God asks Jonah a probing question – Do you do well to be angry? Or, does your anger do any good?
St. Augustine said that our anger flows from what we love. Unrighteous anger, or anger that does no good, comes from disordered loves. Think about the last time you got angry. It was probably because you didn’t get something that you love, or because something you love was offended or hurt. To understand why we get angry, and why our anger is so often wrong, we must see through the anger and ask “what do I love?”
So what did Jonah love? What could make him so angry at God’s forgiveness and compassion? Did he simply love Israel more than his enemy Nineveh? Did he love God’s judgment more than God’s mercy? Did he love himself more than God?
Why do we get so angry? Do we fail to love the ideas of compassion and grace, wanting rather for people to get what they deserve? Do we stay angry so long because we fail to love how God administers justice? Do we simply fail to love the cross?
Jonah doesn’t love what (or who) God loves. And so God sends Jonah a living parable. As Jonah bakes in the hot sun, wanting to die, God causes a plant to grow up to shade Jonah. But then, just as quickly as it came, it’s gone. Jonah is angry again, declaring that he too just wants to die.
And then God asks Jonah another fatherly question:
Jonah 4:9. But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”
We probably think that God is looking for a “No” answer here. Should Jonah be angry about the plant? Jonah’s answer is an angry YES! And that’s the correct answer. YES! You should be angry about a dead plant. YES, you should be angry whenever something is hurt or dies. Now you’re feeling what God feels. Just as the dead plant makes Jonah angry, God is angry over dying Nineveh.
Jonah 4:10-11. And the Lord said…should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons?”
What makes you angry? Whatever it is, can you see that the anger you feel is exactly how God feels about sin and death? God wants us to feel angry because he wants us to feel what he feels toward the evil that would destroy us. And he wants our anger to reveal to us our loves so that they can be transformed by the angry love of Christ.
God asked Jesus, the better Jonah – Do you do well to be angry for (fill in your name here)?
And Jesus replied, Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.
It was the anger of Christ flowing from the love of Christ that took him to the cross. His undying love for you fueling his anger at your sin, your destruction, your death. He was angry enough to die for you.
“To live is Christ” means that now Christ’s loving anger is fueling our love for others. His selfless anger aimed at all that would destroy this world, and enslave others in sin. His selfless love that would make us angry enough to die, even for Nineveh.
What makes you angry? Is your anger doing any good?
You in Christ
In Christ, God’s anger toward you always becomes compassion toward you. Do you believe this?
Christ in you
How can you redirect your anger into Christ’s sacrificial love today?
Playlist: Songs of God’s wrath and mercy