"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." (Jonah 1:2)
When I hear about terrible things like a former Penn State football coach sodomizing young boys and other men covering it up for fear of bad publicity, I wish God would make me an Avenging Angel superhero, traveling the planet rescuing children and dealing with perverts. I want them to suffer for what they've done and feel the same pain they've inflicted on the vulnerable and the weak. What I don't want to do is to pray for the salvation of perverts or "cry out against their wickedness" so they can repent. Although God gave me the awesome and undeserved gift of eternity in His presence, I want certain sinners to be denied that gift.
I am like Jonah.
God told the prophet to go to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, and warn the people of His impending judgment against them if they didn't turn from their wickedness. God even used His chosen people's enemy to punish them for disobedience. When God told Jonah to preach to these pagans, he refused and headed in the opposite direction.
If you're familiar with Jonah's plight, you know that God pursued him, and he eventually obeyed God's command. Nineveh heard the Word of the Lord. Even the king was convicted. He took off his robe and donned sackcloth and sat in ashes. He issued a decree that everyone cry out to God for forgiveness, and that man and beast fast and wear sackcloth. Nineveh turned from wickedness, and God spared the city.
And Jonah didn't like it.
Instead of being humbled that God showed him mercy and awed by the pagan Nineveh's repentance, Jonah was angry. He wanted Israel's enemy destroyed. But God wasn't finished with him. As Jonah sat outside the city, waiting to see what would happen with Nineveh, God erected a plant to shade him from the sun. The plant made him very happy. The next day, God created a worm to destroy it, and He sent a scorching wind and blazing sun. Miserable in the heat and upset about the plant's destruction, Jonah wanted to die. He showed more concern for his shady plant and his own comfort than for the souls of Nineveh.
I empathize with Jonah disobeying the Lord's command to warn the unrepentant and to share the promise of redemption. I understand his urge to flee in the opposite direction. I can be stiff-necked, foolish, and selfish. Too often I care more about my shady plant and comfort than I do about the lost. And although I haven't ended up in the belly of a fish (yet), God pursues me.
Do I begrudge the salvation of people who hurt children? To do so would be shameful. When sinners repent, God is glorified. When I was unrepentant, people preached to me, and prayed.
I'm glad they weren't like Jonah.