It seems sometimes that, in the words of James Taylor, people are too much for me to take. They continue in their destructive behavior which not only hurts themselves, but other people.
A long time ago, a man named Jonah found the people of Nineveh too much to take. When God told Jonah to go to this wicked town to minister to them, he blew God off and walked the other way.
As the story goes, Jonah gets aboard a ship and out of nowhere comes a storm. Jonah told the crew that his running away from the Lord caused this. They jettisoned him and Jonah got swallowed by a whale.
Inside the whale, Jonah got to think about his attitude and his disobedience to God. He repented and asked God to guide him. Jonah returned to Nineveh and the town repented and turned to God and from their evil ways.
Jonah, however, didn’t like God’s compassion for the wicked city.
Jonah had written off Nineveh as a lost cause and wanted them destroyed. God didn’t.
Like a sibling who couldn’t wait to see his brother or sister punished, Jonah sat waiting to see God open a can of whoopass on Nineveh.
God made a vine grow over Jonah to protect him from the hot sun but then he brought a worm to chew the vine, leaving him exposed to the blazing hot sun. Jonah grew faint and wanted to die. He was angry at God.
God gave Jonah the message similar to the opening of the science fiction series The Outer Limits: “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image; make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits.” God showed Jonah that He was in control.
He compared this demonstration to the people of Nineveh and told Jonah: “You have been concerned about the vine, though you did not tend it of make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than 920,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
The homeless community in lower Bucks County, PA is my Nineveh. Members of this community engage in destructive behavior – stealing, conniving, lying, manipulating, being drunk and disorderly in public. Some knuckleheads caused more responsible people to have to vacate their makeshift dwellings. A druggie stole two coats and a cell phone charger from a cancer patient I’m taking care of, after she was shown great hospitality as if she were a daughter.
It’s a human character flaw to wish, as Jonah did on Nineveh, bad things to happen to people when they wrong you. I told the victim of the druggie’s theft that I wished she would die out in the street from withdrawal.
The victim admonished me, reminding me that this is not a Christian view. She’s right, and I prayed to God to deal with the SAM (lower Bucks County PA druggie) the way Jesus would.
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” –Romans 12:19
God gives people 2nd chances. He gave me another chance. Like the people in Nineveh, I persisted in my sinful ways. After falling into a pit as a result of my behavior, I called out to God, who forgave me and rescued me and directed my paths.
Despite people, including myself, reaching out to people in the homeless community, they continue their destructive ways. I felt bad to see people I’ve tried to help turn to the dark side.
I’ve had to come to grips with the idea that my task is to obey God and show love towards others. After doing all I could do for someone, I’ve had to walk away. A friend told me that it was their choice and it wasn’t on me that she didn’t change. God, not I, am responsible for outcomes.
A counselor at a treatment center I visited told the visitors to make rules and set boundaries for their loved ones with addictions but to never condemn them. Good advice!
Don’t give up. Some time ago, a drug addict said that he wished he didn’t do what got him into the sorry state he was in. Although, as I told him, life is not a videogame where you can delete what you did, you can get back on the right track.
Drug users use more and more to try to get satisfied. They never reached their nirvana and end up flatlining. We strive for nirvana but never get completely satisfied. Drug addiction, like other sins, leads to destruction. As Neil Young sang:
“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun”
Like Nineveh, which God threatened to destroy if the people there didn’t come back to him, addicts and other people who regularly engage in other ungodly behavior still have a chance before they become toast. At the 12 Steps Journey program I attend, which is not just for addictions but for other problems, I’ve seen people with big problems get their act together. It’s not quick as a wink you’re in the pink, but a long journey that requires devotion and constant turning to God. http://12stepjourney.com/
“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” –Psalm 40:2