As children the story of Jonah was the story of a great prophet who did not want to preach repentance to Nineveh and thus ran away. The main thrill was that of a whale swallowing said prophet and after three days he repents and is spat out on the shores of Nineveh.

What was the purpose of the story. (Besides the fact that it would have had to be a big fish, not whale.) In the end Jonah grudgingly tells the people to repent and then goes up to a mountain to wait God’s vengeance. Jonah is angry when the Ninevites repent and God forgives them. When God sends a plant to shade Jonah and then a worm to destroy it. Jonah shows more passion for the plant than compassion for his fellow human-being.

No one knows what happens to Jonah or if he understands forgiveness. But all of us, no matter our faith or lack of faith can learn that nothing is unforgivable. We look at cruelty and suffering in our world, but we cannot fill our hearts with hatred, we have to love all the more. We can learn that prayer and hope and compassion will bring about change. It may not be quick, but it is the only way. Vengeance, hatred and bitterness only erode the fabric of humanity and destroy the peace within us.