But the Lord replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"
Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."
But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."
But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"
I like Jonah, if only because he is so unlikable, and so very like me. He is grumpy and drags his feet. He sulks and finds it easier to die than to live. He praises God's mercy to himself yet is offended by His mercy to others. Jonah runs from God.
God loves cities. God loves Nineveh, and God loves Seattle. If ever I've seen a place full of "people who cannot tell their right hand from their left," it is here. Many have said a church would not work here, not a gospel-centered church, not in the heart of the city, not in Capitol Hill. Yet here we are, almost six years old, with a huge part of our membership coming to know Christ in our midst. Many would say that a church of our size and age could never survive the fall of our pastor, a charismatic speaker and leader. Nor could we make it with young elders and inexperienced leadership, nor with hard economic times and shrinking financial resources. Yet we are here, without a thing to boast beyond His grace to us.
God's faithfulness to Nineveh and to Jonah are parallel, just as His faithfulness to Seattle and to me. Nineveh hears the word of the Lord not because of any merit of its own, and in fact, despite its wickedness. Only His grace brings the word to them, and only His grace makes their hearts able to hear it. What Jonah and I need to hear is that our stories are linked to our cities, that we have been shown mercy in the very same way, despite our unfaithfulness— that the larger story of God's love for our cities is also the intimate story of God's love for us.
The salvation of Nineveh is the salvation of Jonah. Will he see? Will I?