Good Losers

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 12; 146, Jonah 3:1-4:11, Revelation 11:14-19, Luke 11:27-36


Do you have to get your way to be happy? If so, brace yourself for a lot of disappointments.

God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn the people there to repent or be destroyed. Jonah hated the Ninevites, so not only did he not want to be there in the first place, he really didn’t want them to be saved. Yet repent they did, and rather than be happy an entire city had turned to the Lord, Jonah went to the outskirts of town and pouted. The Lord caused a bush to grow to give him shade, and for a brief time Jonah was happy. Then the Lord “appointed a worm” to destroy the bush, and Jonah resumed his griping.

The Lord asked Jonah how he could be so upset about a day-old bush he hadn’t even grown himself, yet expect the Lord not to be concerned about a hundred and twenty thousand people who had lost their way.

We are going to be put in a lot of situations where we don’t get what we want. The new music director may go contemporary when we prefer classic. The presidential candidate we voted for could lose. The in-laws might insist on cooking the dressing inside the turkey when it is clearly safer not to. How do we react to these and the countless serious and trivial disappointments we will face?

When we are presented with a choice of resentment and sabotage, or working toward reconciliation, let’s remember that Jonah did not turn out to be the hero of his story. He hated the Ninevites because they had enslaved his people. Jonah’s bitterness prevented him from seeing that calling them to repentance was a victory which neither compromised him nor excused them, but vindicated the loving nature of the God of Israel.

How we behave in defeat says more about our character than winning ever will. We don’t have to betray our values to work for the greater good of a family, congregation, or nation. Dodging responsibility and sulking on the periphery serves no one well, least of all our God.

Comfort: Your happiness does not depend on getting your way.

Challenge: Do something nice for someone you don’t particularly like.

Prayer: God of reconciliation, may I be gracious and defeat and generous in victory. Amen.

Discussion: Do you prefer games that are competitive or cooperative?

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