Are They Really Worth A Second Chance?
A couple of weekends ago, I got the opportunity to serve as a small group leader at the Wake Winter Weekend with Woodside’s high school students. It’s always an incredible weekend filled with dance parties, observing awkward conversations with boys, copious amounts of coffee, and of course, a whole lot of Jesus.
The theme for the weekend revolved around the faith essentials we believe in and how to live them out in our daily lives. One particular message centered around the big idea that “salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone.” The speaker shared the truths found in Ephesians 2:1–10 and that this message was for everyone. No matter how far you are from God or what you’ve done, the gift of salvation is for everyone, through Jesus’ sacrifice once and for all. After the session ended, we headed back to our cabin for what would be an interesting follow-up discussion. It went a little something like this:
My Co-Leader: So, girls, what stood out to you from the message this morning?
Me: Anything you liked, have questions about?
Student: Ok…so, I’m struggling with one part. Like I get that salvation is for everyone, but I’m having a hard time with the fact that it is for EVERYONE. You know, like human traffickers or rapists and murderers. Like you know people who do REALLY bad things, and God just forgives them if they seek His forgiveness. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
And thus began an hour-long conversation about sin, grace, and repentance. We wrestled through the idea that all have sinned, and we all fall short — no matter what we have done. And that there is no sin far “too bad” that the blood of Jesus didn’t or can’t cover it. As a group, we talked about repentance and that it is not just for some but for all — that this is the beauty of God’s grace.
My small group isn’t the only ones to wrestle with this.
I can’t help but think of Jonah when I think of my small group’s conversation. If you think about it, God called Jonah to preach His message to the people of Nineveh, and Jonah fled. He didn’t believe the people of Nineveh were worth redemption. I think this is a mindset we often have without even realizing it. Take a minute to think, what is my “Nineveh?”
Who is the person, or people, in your life that you think are too far from being redeemed? Or maybe you’re like my small group and wrestle with the notion that God forgives everyone who truly repents, turning from their sin to God, even the murderers. Now, I think it is important to note that I’m not saying there aren’t consequences for our actions or sin. Please don’t confuse that.
Yet, we have a guy like Jonah, a prophet and man of God, who didn’t believe God’s message was for everyone. So, he ran and ended up in the belly of a fish. After chilling there for a few days, the fish spit him up, which is really gross if you think about it, and off he went to Nineveh. However, there is something to be said about this moment in Jonah’s story.
Scripture doesn’t tell us that Jonah had some miraculous change of heart, and that is why he was obedient to God this time around. Pastor Jim Dahlke states it like this,
“The best understanding would be that Jonah’s heart has not yet changed [see Jonah 4], but that he has no other choice. He’s already witnessed that his disobedience and running is futile in the light of God’s miraculous sovereignty, so he drags himself to Nineveh.”
And guess what happens. Nineveh repents. Legit, like the whole city. And Nineveh wasn’t a small city. If you hop over to the last verse in chapter 4, you’ll see it had 120,000 people. It was a big city. The town that Jonah thought was too far from God’s redemption heard God’s word, believed it, and responded. They turned from their wicked ways and turned to God. After seeing a whole city repent and turn to God, Jonah still climbs up on the hill in hopes to see God’s wrath fall on the city [which spoiler alert, it doesn’t].
How many of you are like Jonah? We go through the motions of obeying God, but we don’t really believe anything will come from it. How often do we see or ignore people because we don’t think they deserve God’s grace? Maybe it is not someone in our everyday circle, but it’s someone we see on the news; we wish the worst upon them instead of praying that God would get a hold of their hearts and that they would repent and turn to Him.
The good news is that no one is too far from God’s grace and redemption. And that means you and me. If you’ve been finding yourself acting a little bit like Jonah, be encouraged that God still wants to be with you, hear from you, and use you. He’s a God of second chances for everyone. I encourage you to spend some time in His presence and reflect on how you view the “Nineveh” in your life. Do you view them as worthy of God’s redemption? Or are you just sitting on the hill waiting for wrath to fall?
I want to leave you with the words from Pastor Jim Dahlke, as I hope they would be a reminder to you of the goodness of God and the salvation that is for all.
“While Jonah was a prophet, sent by God, to reveal the word of God he disobeyed. But God spoke and saved him, giving him a second chance to go and preach repentance to all who would listen. Jesus, on the other hand, was the greatest prophet ever to live, sent by His Father to reveal the word of God to the world. He never sinned and was completely obedient, even to the point of death. But God spoke. He overcame sin, death, and hell! He sent His followers into the cities of this world to preach repentance to all who would listen! And that same God, the God of Jonah, Jesus Himself, responds to repentance today.”
Where is God calling you to preach repentance? Is it to a family member, neighbor, a prisoner, a human trafficker, someone you believe has done the unforgivable?