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Faith Column: All about forgiveness

Gerard Geis/For the Saturday Morning Press

This morning, as part of our Seminary class study of the Old Testament, we were discussing Jonah. You remember the story, right? Jonah is called by God as a prophet and commands him to go to Nineveh to preach. Ordinarily this might not be a problem, but Nineveh was one of the seats of the Assyrian Empire.

The Assyrian Empire at the time was hell-bent on conquering the world and hated Israelites. The Assyrians were known for their brutality in conquering other nations and cities; they would pillage, plunder, maim, fold, spindle and mutilate anyone in their path. This explains why Jonah freaks out when commanded to go there, and he ends up going on the run in order to avoid going to Nineveh. Jonah hailed an ancient taxi and headed to Joppa, which was on the Mediterranean, and once there, he paid for passage on a ship headed toward Tarshish, which is believed to have been in Spain.

Jonah and the ship’s crew are sailing along wonderfully until all of a sudden an enormous storm brews up and starts tossing the ship around like a cork. It seems God was fully aware of Jonah and his defiance of His command. Apparently Jonah didn’t know that you can’t get away from God any more than crooks can get away from the police helicopter in big cities. Jonah had brought God’s wrath upon himself and the others on the ship, which didn’t make him a very popular guy on the ship. After some pointed discussions, Jonah tells the crew that it’s his fault they are all fixin’ to drown and they are quick to grant his request to be thrown overboard. Jonah is then swallowed by a big ol’ whale and spends three days and nights in his smelly underwater suite.

After some serious praying and repentance, God shows him mercy and forgives him and has the whale puke him out onto dry land. On a side note, how do you suppose things went over with Jonah’s wife when he returned home after three days smelling like low tide and wearing squishy sandals? I would have loved to hear that conversation.

Jonah was shown mercy by God for his transgressions and should have been thankful. However, as the story goes, Jonah sucks it up and goes to Nineveh to preach, and he is surprised when the people answer his call to repentance and ask for forgiveness for their sins. When God shows mercy to the people of Nineveh, Jonah is miffed at God for forgiving them. Uh, hey Jonah, did you forget how gracious God was to you? Bad form, Jonah. Bad form.

The lesson here is this: we all need to find a way to forgive those that have wronged, us even if it is hard as heck to do. If we hope to be forgiven, we must forgive others as well, because it is the Christ-like thing to do. Bottom line is this: we mortals must forgive everyone. Jesus gets to pick who he wants to forgive.

Gerard Geis, member, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day SaintsGerard Geis, member, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day SaintsGerard Geis, member, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints


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