“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster”. Jonah 4:1-2
It’s ironic that what we love about God, is the same thing that angers us about him; his compassion, his mercy, his grace. When Jonah was asked to go to Nineveh, he knew that he was really being asked to be compassionate, merciful, and gracious to a people that was not deserving. However, Jonah instead of being the gracious, compassionate, and merciful diplomat the he was asked to be chose to flee to Tarshish.
Just like Jonah, often times in our diplomacy we chose to disseminate judgment or flee when God is asking us to show compassion. God’s love and compassion have to be foundational to our diplomacy. The very definition of diplomacy speaks to the idea of having tact: being sensitive to others, taking the necessary measures to express yourself in such a way that doesn’t cause harm or dissension unnecessarily. This kind of diplomacy requires compassion, and compassion for those who we disagree with, or find detestable is easier to talk about than to live out.
As Christ followers our diplomacy first requires our obedience. When God tells us to go and deliver a message to people, our first response should always be to do so no questions asked. It is not for us to question God’s judgement, or to become the judge of others. Secondly, diplomacy requires compassion, grace, and mercy. These things allow us to deliver the message of the Gospel without bias and judgement. It was these three things that Jonah was reminded of in the belly of the whale.
“At the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” Jonah 2:6-9
In the midst of diplomacy it is important for us to realize who Christ is and who we are called to be as his followers, and ambassadors. All power is his, and salvation is His. We must never try to control who the message goes out to, because the message is for all. Our diplomacy must make accommodations for the culture and the context in which we are called to, no matter what our opinions of those to whom we are called may be.
Just like Jonah it’s easy for us to be compassionate and diplomatic with those who we think are worthy of compassion, mercy, grace, and diplomacy, but its ever so difficult for us to do so with people who are culturally different, or we don’t see eye to eye with; or have done awful things to us or our loved ones.
Sometimes our anger and hunger for justice; mixed with the realization that the Lord’s compassion goes far beyond our understanding makes us judge and jury, when we’re actually called to be diplomatic ambassadors of Christ. Never going around the truth, or avoiding his call, but discussing the message of Christ compassionately and prayerfully, showing His mercy and grace to all those we encounter.