You gotta love a guy whose biggest fear about God is that God might not destroy the enemy. Jonah runs from God at first, not because he is humble and feels unworthy of the calling. He runs because he is afraid that if he does his job it will work. The big bad city of Nineveh will forswear its evil ways and God will…. wait for it…. wait for it…. be merciful. Jonah ends up doing it anyway, of course, but he ends up smelling like fish guts.
Jonah is great comic literature because it makes him look like such a fool that we can’t help but look at our own foolishness about such things. If you had a mortal enemy, would you want them to receive what they deserve, or receive mercy?
By the end of Jonah’s short story, it is clear that Jonah doesn’t like it -- the mercy of God for the other -- especially the really other, the enemy. A little more destruction and judgment and it could have been a good day. But no, even the cows had sackcloth and repented and God…. did what? Changed God’s mind? Mercy does that to you.
Like Jonah, we don’t have to like it. It doesn’t change God’s merciful ways if we like it or not. We do have to learn how to live with it. We can either be grumpy about it. Or we can laugh at ourselves as much as we do at Jonah, sit back under the shade tree with a cold one and watch the world not get demolished. Then we’ll curse when the shade tree withers and the sunlight hits us hard, and laugh at ourselves again, and have another cold one with a nod to heaven.