Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
They knew they were visiting a place where God was not honored because that was the purpose of their mission. They were there to reach a lost people even if they would have to be rather silent about it. The trip started off well enough, and the team felt welcomed. Over time, the gravity of the spiritual environment in that land began to take its toll. The oppression became palpable, and the enemy did an effective job of creating division where there should have been unity. Some of the team members forgot about their compassion for those lost people when these times became rough. All they could focus on was their discomfort at the spiritual warfare around them. They vowed never to return to that land, leaving those people and their evil ways behind them.
Sometimes it is amazing to me how easily we can decide that a certain person or group of people are no longer worth the effort. Sometimes this comes from a place of personal offense; other times this comes from a distaste for the sin in which the people are mired. There are those who would rather spend their efforts saving trees than saving their fellow man. We can think of all kinds of reasons not to have compassion on those who practice evil, but I am not sure that any of those reasons are justified. The fact of the matter is that God’s heart breaks over those of his creation who remain lost. He feels sorry for them the way He felt sorry for Nineveh. In fact, his compassion extended beyond the people and to the remainder of his creation which would have been destroyed had that city not repented.
Think about it: God felt sorry even for the animals who would have died had Nineveh been brought to ruin because of its sin. It is not his desire that any part of his beautiful creation would be corrupted and destroyed. Jonah felt more for a tree than he felt for the thousands God wanted to spare from that evil place and its bondage. Jonah received God’s correction on that issue, and we would be wise to receive it as well. We may encounter some very evil people in this world who are lost and deceived as we once were, but our compassion should be no less for them than for any others. Father, break our hearts for the ones who we do not even desire to approach, that You would lead us to them in your compassion and love.