There’s enough indication in Scripture to make the case that we naturally run from law when it confronts us in everyday life: in the preached Word of God as a ‘first word’ and when we experience its damning effects and accusatory sting in the midst of our relationships. But more subtle and implicit is the notion that we also, in a sense, run from grace.

In the book of Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3) we see that the renowned “Prophet to the Nations” runs from the law…but in Jonah 4:1-2, we see that he despises the grace of God. Jonah ran from both… What’s interesting is that after he runs from the law, and consequently finds himself in the whale’s digestive tract, he prays a very pious, Scripture-laden prayer. In fact, he fulfills the conditions for national revival laid out in 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 7… After we discover his aversion to grace, we of course get his sermon in which he lectures the Almighty on the finer points of salvation, ‘how to run the universe’, etc…

So, what’s the point in all this? Well, I think we see firstly that when ‘law’ works on us, one of our tendencies is to give God falsely humble platitudes and seemingly devout lip service. We really think the proverbial ‘tears and snot’ at the altar or apparent contrition displayed at the ‘mourner’s bench’ (depending on your religious tradition) purges the soul of its maladies and moves the heart of God. As if God were impressed with the intensity and supposed sincerity of our repentance.

I believe God had a greater mission in mind with Jonah and with us… He wanted to draw the prophet out into the deeper waters of realness…

God knew what Jonah would do. God knows what you and I are going to do when the law commands us. God’s work in our life is a death-mission… He sends the messenger of death (the law) in order to kill our self-righteousness that He might comfort us in the righteousness of Christ. God needed to show Jonah (and us) his (our) heart, idols and all…because ultimately He would one day show us His Son (consider how Mark 4:35-41 parallels Jonah’s misadventure).

Yes, God reveals our hearts to us, but not as the ultimate end-game. Some would portray God’s relation to us as showing us our hearts so we can be the ones to ‘work on our hearts’, ‘examine ourselves’, ‘get right with God’, etc (fill in the blank with the cliché of your choice). God’s objective in showing us ourselves is always to end the sentence with ‘Jesus’. To end the discussion with ‘but God…’ One of my favorite examples of this dynamic is how Jesus deals with the seven churches in Revelation: regardless of their wretched ‘condition’, the end note addresses him who overcomesand we have overcome because of our faith in Jesus.

In short, what God seeks is not religious devotion, carefully worded prayer, or even a commitment to do better…God wants our realness. God wants our transparency. God wants all the vile we’re pretending and deceiving ourselves isn’t there…

God was more glorified in Jonah’s angry tirade than he was in his beautifully worded ‘pray-God’s-word-back-to-Him’ Sunday School prayer… God is glorified when the masks come off, when we finally reach the place where we’re too tired to pretend anymore and we just unravel and come undone… He’s not offended by it, he’s not shocked by it… His Son bore all of it when He became sin. It’s amazing that the Holy Spirit actually dwells exclusively with sinners (see 1 John 1:8).

So, yes we run from grace too…we’re embarrassed by it because it removes all the distinctions we create to separate us from them. It is a message that denies and invalidates all of our hard work and effort. We are ashamed of our sin, but maybe more ashamed of His love for sinners…it’s like we’d rather prove ourselves to God than be loved in our weakness.

So, if we run from law and grace, then what hope do we have? We have the righteous record of the One who by the grace of God kept the law of God for us (Hebrews 2:9). We have grace even for our hatred of grace (cf. Romans 2:4). Jonah indicted God for being too gracious…years later, men would condemn God’s Son for the same reason. God’s response to Jonah was “Should I not save these people who don’t know any better?” Jesus’ cry from the cross was “Forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing.”

There was grace for the seafaring prophet who basically cussed out God… In Acts 3, Peter informs the crowd that there’s grace for the people who murdered God’s Son…oh, that includes me…that includes you. You are absolved…so, keep it real with God. If you tell him how you really feel, He won’t crush you… He already did that to Jesus…so He could keep the line open with you for eternity.