"How much more, then, should I have pity on Nineveh, that great city? It has more than 120,000 innocent children in it, as well as many animals!"
Jonah 4:11

My gang? Your gang? Our Gang! The Little Racals prepare for battle.

When I was a boy, I loved to play war games with my little friends. We would arm ourselves with high-powered sticks (sometimes water guns) and zap each other while scurrying from trees and bushes to the little foxholes we had dug in the soft and sandy Florida soil. The near-constant shouting we engaged in was always as loud as the “gun noises” we made:
“I got you, Jerry! Got you, Bobby! You’re dead!”
And, of course, the retorts: “Liar! I shot you first!” Followed by the rat-a-tat-tat of “machine gun fire” and exploding “hand grenades.” Peace was not to be had at any price, it seemed, until Mom called us inside for a glass of lemonade.
As I grew into my early teens, I became particularly enamored with war movies—whether on the big screen (think The Longest Day) or the boob tube (Combat! would be a good example).

Sal Mineo and Vic Morrow in a 1965 episode of Combat!

When I turned fifteen or so, and began thinking of college, my first inclination was to apply to West Point—the famed U.S. military academy. I’ll never forget the dizzying excitement I felt receiving West Point’s admissions manual in the mail. And then the precipitous fall… As I looked through the catalogue of courses, I quickly came to the realization that should I go to West Point, I would need to take an overwhelming number of classes in Math and Science—my least favorite subjects (and the ones for which I had the lowest grades). Somehow, I knew in that instant I would never go to West Point. Even worse, I think I realized in that moment I didn’t want to go to West Point. My world had been turned upside down. 
I didn’t entirely abandon my dream of being in the military, however. I registered for the draft at eighteen and would have gone to Vietnam (hoping I might become a Green Beret), but my lottery number was 307 and the highest number called that year was 95. Then came college and the anti-war movement, more or less nailing the “coffin” shut on my last hopes. I guess I will only be Jason Bourne for a few hours at a time in front of my laptop (or should I say “viewing device”?).
And Jonah? One would think he might have learned a lesson or two about wanting his own way after being swallowed by the great fish, and later spit out upon land to proceed with his mission of calling the people of Nineveh to repentance.
But apparently not. Jonah, it seems, still thirsted for war. And for him, it was no game.

Jonah sulks outside Nineveh

When the Ninevites repented in sackcloth and ashes at his preaching, the prophet retired to the outskirts of the city to fret and grouse. The Ninevites were the sworn enemies of his people, and now the Big Man had shown them forgiveness, extending grace and mercy even to the animals of the city! Can you imagine? How could God stoop so low as to save the animals of these animals? Where was his righteous indignation? The hellfire? Whatever happened to Rat-a-tat-tatYou’re dead!?
In thinking of Jonah’s attitude toward the Ninevites, we might be quick to retort “Old Testament!” until we consider the New Testament story found in Luke 9:52-56. There we read of Jesus and his disciples passing through a village of Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. Along the way, the Samaritan locals gave them a good ol’ Bronx cheer, and the disciples (at least two of them) were outraged:
When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, saying, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” And they went to another village.
Grumbling and fretting, I suppose, but chastened somewhat by the Master.
Old Testament or New, it’s pretty much inescapable to me. The God of the Bible “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We who name the Name of Christ are called to take his message of reconciliation to the entire world in a spirit of love and humility. However, it often feels these days that many of us are more intent on running off to Tarshish to hide from God rather than go to our “enemies” and make peace through our Lord.
I wonder why that is. Why can’t we lay down our sticks and water guns and have a glass of lemonade instead?

Ahhhhh! That's so much better, isn't it?

The apostle Paul told us what we should be thinking about—things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good report, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). And Jesus told us if we want to be God’s children, we need to love our enemies: “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” (Luke 6:32)
I like that quote in the movie Harvey, starring James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd. To most everyone’s consternation in the story, Elwood is convinced of his very real conversations with a 6’3” rabbit by the name of Harvey. Toward the end of the film, Elwood says: “Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she'd say ‘In this world, Elwood, you can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart... I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” Well, thanks, Elwood. I just did.
And you, my friend? How would you answer that question Jesus asked his disciples? Is it your instinct to call down fire from heaven to destroy those on the other side? Of what manner spirit are you made?

With love and respect,

As summer draws to a close, we’re happy to bring you The Bill Collector as our Movie of the Month. The Bill Collector stars Danny Trejo, Gary Moore, Ron Kenoly and the rising stars of the Life Enrichment Center. Check out David Krusen (at left, seated) in the role of Omar (Danny Trejo’s enforcer) with Gary as Lorenzo Adams. A bit of a romp at a low budget with some feel-good moments to share. Hope you enjoy!

In other news, we are gearing up to shoot winter exteriors for The Puzzle Factory in Minnesota. You can join our prayer team, contribute financially toward the production budget, or inquire as to volunteer opportunities. Be sure to “like” our Facebook pages and stay apprised of the latest news and developments.
Stay safe and may God bless us, every one!
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Cristóbal Krusen is a filmmaker and author. He founded Messenger Films in 1988.

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