But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. —Matthew 5.44-45
(I took this picture this afternoon, riding down the road. Don’t worry, I wasn’t driving, just riding)
These have always been significant verses for me because they keep me in check. We’re instructed to love our enemies, a profound and counter-cultural idea. But the portion that is formative for me is the less obvious one. That God will bless the good and the evil with the sun and give the gracious rain to the righteous and the unrighteous shows me that God doesn’t pick and choose who will be blessed by all the earth has to offer. God’s creation is an expression of his love, therefore that love is poured out on us all.
But in reference to the verse, children of God are those that can and will love their enemies and show compassion the way the Father does. We are the sun and we are the rain, poured out on both kinds of people. This idea is very intentional as we come upon Holy Week. The week begins with Jesus’ acceptance into Jerusalem as a kingly figure and ends with his condemnation as a wrongly-accused criminal. The people that welcome him are the people that crucify him. Shouts of joy turn to cries of hate. We are tense when we read the verses and we wonder how these people could do such a horrible thing. But who are these people, really? If we’re honest then we’ll agree that “they” are “us.”
Because Christ died for us, we too represent those that laid coats and branches under his feet (Mark 11.1-11), but later nailed his hands and pierced his side. With great humility we must be careful not to separate ourselves from those that abandoned him after following him for years. We must not ostracize those that anticipated freedom but turned from him when his mission was misunderstood.
One of my favorite Christian rock bands growing up had a line in one of their songs that said,
I couldn’t tell you why good people suffer
I couldn’t tell you why the bad ones run free
God showers blessings on the righteous and the wicked
I only know that that covers me
This kind of humility is what is needed today—an attitude of non-judgment. We must not see ourselves as better than others but must recognize that our sin is as deep and as serious as those who have yet to accept God’s grace. And yet, it is the acceptance of that grace that has made all the difference. What separates the Christian from the non-Christian is the fact that we have both welcomed him into the holy city of our hearts and died on the cross of our shame with him. We have associated ourselves with his condemnation and accept the due penalty of our sins. But praise be to God, that just as we were dead in our sins, it is through Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection that we are made alive again! But that is something for Easter.
Enjoy your service this Sunday. Be blessed by the triumphal entry. Welcome Christ into the Holy City of our heart and know the true reason why he has come—to die FOR you and to live IN you. Be blessed.