Written by Amanda

10/25/2017

On Road Rage, Jonah's Call and the Ministry of Reconciliation


When I was at university, my two jobs, my school, and my parent’s house where I lived were all in different cities. In short: I drove. A lot.

If you have ever been a commuter through rush hour, you might be familiar with the frustration you can get with other drivers. My commuter angst led me to come up with a game to deal with my frustration. I called it “The Grace Game.”

“The Grace Game” went like this: every time a driver took my right-of-way, cut me off, or did something particularly jerky, I came up with an elaborate excuse usually involving some bad-day mixture of a cheating spouse, a dead pet, and a mean boss. (I know. This is probably revealing how morbid and quirky I am.)

My ridiculous excuses dissolved my road rage into sympathy and a good laugh. I thought the stories I made up helped me extend grace.

One day, I busted out my game after a near accident. I came up with an excuse for the offending driver and was feeling rather proud of myself for diverting what was sure to have been an angry tirade involving a few choice expletives.

It was in that moment God chose to reveal something I had apparently missed about His grace.

My “grace game” was about conditions, reasons for the wrongs.

God’s grace, however, is unconditional and undeserved. The only circumstance His grace is based upon is Jesus’ death and resurrection. That’s it. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

——————-

In Jonah 3:1-4, we pick up right after Jonah has gone into the depths in the belly of a great fish and is spit up on dry land. God speaks to Jonah a second time. “Arise. Go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am I going to tell you” (v. 3). This time we read that Jonah did “according to the Word of the LORD” (v. 3). He walked through the city proclaiming that it would be overthrown in forty days’ time.

Jonah was sent to the ones whose actions against his people he could not excuse and could not forgive. It’s why he ran the first time. (You might remember it being mentioned how the Ninevites were the Assyrians who had pillaged the Jews, raped their women, and killed their people.)

(Talk about a hard ask.)

Today, I find myself keenly aware that in life sometimes you are wronged without a single decent excuse. Sometimes we are asked to extend the hard grace, the impossible forgiveness, to an unjustifiable wrong.

It might be in your marriage—the spouse who did something (or a bunch of little somethings) you can’t respect and don’t know how to let go of.

It might in your family—the one member who keeps making bad decisions that hurt you and it doesn’t seem like they will ever change.

It might be in your friendships—someone you thought you could trust gossiped about you behind your back.

It might be that you are pre-judged and mistreated simply based on the color of your skin, your line of work, or your income—and the offender can’t even admit that he or she was wrong.

Notice this: It’s only after Jonah has gone down into the depths, cried out to the LORD with his prayer of surrender, and been raised back up that Jonah goes and does “according to the Word of the LORD”.

It’s only when we die to our rights—surrender—that God can effectively use us as ministers of the gospel.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NASB).

We have been given a ministry of reconciliation. (All of us who have been reconciled to God through Christ. All.)

The Greek word here for reconciliation is katallage. It is a word used by money-changers to show that an equivalent value had been exchanged. It is a beautiful picture of the Great Exchange: Christ’s life for our debt of sin.

Jonah ran away from this ministry of reconciliation. I think sometimes we want to too.

When I was young, I dreamed of going to the mission field, building schools, and telling people about Jesus. I remember thinking how scary that would be and how much I would have to rely on God to do such a thing. But here’s the truth as a slightly older woman: the hardest place we are asked to live the gospel message is with the people we live amongst—the people who wrong us—the people who hurt us—the people we don’t understand.

We aren’t just asked to preach the reconciliation message, we are asked to die to ourselves that we might LIVE the reconciliation message.

The best place we can proclaim this message might just be in your own life where the greatest debt is owed.

I don’t want to belittle or undermine your pain, and I hope nothing about this sounds easy or flippant. Because it’s not. The book of Jonah clearly shows just how hard this is.

Listen: God’s grace looks nothing like codependency. Grace isn’t about excusing bad behavior. It isn’t turning a blind eye. It definitely isn’t a cute game we can play to divert our road rage. Grace is the overwhelming, undeserved, unconditional work of God thru Christ Jesus, and the work of grace-extending can only be accomplished through Christ.

The one who chooses to extend the Grace of God lays down his rights, his pride, his self-justification, and the retribution he is owed. Really, in some small way, extending grace is our own march to the cross, our-deny-ourselves-pick-up-our-cross-and-follow-Him march.

The grace-extending ministry of reconciliation is not us clearing someone else’s debt of sin, and it isn’t paying it ourselves. It’s recognizing that Christ already paid the debt of sin in full—for us and for them.

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Amanda is a law enforcement wife and a homeschooling mom to three. Her family has called Reality Church of Stockton home for three years. When Amanda’s not pulling her toddler off the bookshelf or explaining to picky eaters why vegetables need to be eaten, she enjoys iced lattes, bird watching, and deep conversations. She lives clinging to the hope she has in Christ that in spite of all her short-comings, she shall be called an overcomer yet. You can also find her writing her broken stories on her blog at Amanda Conquers.