Text: Jonah 3:1-4
The grace pendulum can swing both ways, and in my life I’ve touched the ceiling in each direction. I’m referring, of course, to my response to God’s grace. He is unchanging, loving, merciful, just – and somehow all at once. I, however, am a little less, ahem, steady.
Many times I’ve tried my hardest to earn the un-earnable, to deserve the un-deservable. I’ve been intent on not just striving for God’s grace, but striving well, attaining what is in me to attain, knowing deep down (in that part of you that just knows) that it won’t be enough. And there I swung on that pendulum, so far in the direction of legalism-wrapped-in-pride that I could sweep the ceiling with my fingertips.
And then there are times I’ve tried my hardest to drink it in, striving in a different way. I’ve been hell-bent on being free, not understanding what that truly means. I’ve consumed grace in the same way I indulge my diet soda addiction — grabbing a swig whenever I need a lift, whenever I need to feel OK again. I’ve lived in false freedom and called it the liberty of grace, swinging high in the other direction to touch that same pride-ceiling on the other side.
It’s tough to find the balance, isn’t it?
Here is why I love these four verses in the middle of the book of Jonah: Jonah guzzles grace like he’s never been thirstier for it. But then, without missing a beat, he does something revolutionary. He obeys. And he obeys, it would seem, without hesitation. No calculating all the possible risks, no predicting all the possible reactions of all possible people, no wondering the least amount of obedience he could get away with in the given scenario. God says go, and Jonah went. He “arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord” (Jonah 3:2). And it was no quick trip, you guys.
I picture Jonah with a renewed determination in his eyes and a bolstered courage in his heart, making the three-day trek to deliver a message he knows may very well be ignored. I sense in him something that wasn’t there on the day he fled to Tarshish — the responsibility to obey.
Obedience is not a way to earn God’s grace.
Obedience is not a way to prove worthy of the grace we’ve already received.
But obedience is a responsibility we carry as children of the Lord.
We are commissioned by the Most High to carry His Word to the world — in small, everyday ways and big, go-to-Nineveh ways. Grace should not be the blanket under which we hide from our calling, but the buoy that lifts us to obedience.
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”