Amazing grace! (how sweet the the sound) It is easier to receive than it is to extend to others. I believe the book of Jonah reveals this inconsistency all too well.
Although he was a descendant of Abraham, the man through whom the world would be blessed, Jonah could not see his way clear to extend grace beyond the bloodline of Israel. In spite of his esteemed role as prophet in Israel, the nation created to be a “light to the nations (Isa. 42:6 NASB), he resisted the notion of extending God’s grace to those outside the borders of his country. For whatever reason, Jonah could never embrace God’s global message of grace. (Andy Stanley, The Grace of God, p. 117, emphasis added)
Jonah knew the grace of God firsthand: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (2:8 NIV84, emphasis added).
But let’s not be to quick to judge Jonah.
Who are the Ninevites in your life? Who are the people to whom you have a hard time extending grace? Whose calamity do you secretly celebrate? Who do you secretly wish would get what you think they have coming to them? Let’s start with some large groups. Rich people? Poor people? White people? Black people? Skinny people? Muslims? (Stanley, p. 117)
And may I add: Democrats? Republicans?
Grace is often sweet when we receive it. But when called upon to extend it to others, we often find ourselves like Jonah of old.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (4:1-2 NIV84, emphasis added)
In fact, Jonah had more concern for a plant than for sinners who didn’t know their right from their left hand (4:5-11). Or as Andy Stanley puts it, “Jonah’s theology was impeccable, but his application was completely one-sided” (Stanley, p. 115).