Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Much has been made of Jesus’ instructions to love our enemies, but there’s even more to this passage than that. I’ll never forget the time when I was around 12, I think, and with my mother when we were accosted by a member of Sokagakkai, which could be described as a Buddhist version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He recognized that my mother was a missionary and started berating her for the “unrealistic demands” of the Bible, specifically referencing this command. My mother silenced him by telling him the true story of an American couple who adopted the Japanese young man who had murdered their son in a prison camp in the closing days of WWII, in blind rage and grief because his family had been wiped out at Hiroshima. That is indeed a good example of God enabling people to do things they ordinarily could not do, but the particular part of this passage that speaks to me right now is how God is gracious to all. We tend to think like the song from The Sound of Music that says, “Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could, so somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” That’s simply not true. Someone has used the term, “common grace.” We are not to think that because we haven’t been struck by lightning, we must be “on God’s good side.” Jesus dealt with that sort of thinking rather definitively in Luke 13:1-5. Conversely, we also shouldn’t wonder why bad things happen to good people, which is a perennial question of the spiritually uninformed. Jesus said very clearly, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) God does protect and heal His children, but completely insulating them from the world they live in would not be good parenting. (In the US we’re seeing an epidemic of parents trying to do exactly that!)
This is of course an issue for me as well. I am enormously blessed, but it is no surprise that I have difficulties as well. My wife Cathy is a good case in point. She has a list of medical problems, including Parkinson’s Disease and heart problems, that would cause some people to give up. However, she keeps going amazingly, because she is focused on God rather than on her problems. She has recently had episodes of calcium deposits in the tendons of her shoulders (first one and then the other) but even the doctor was surprised at how fast she healed after treatment. Likewise, just this week she had a fall that could easily have cracked her coccyx, but x-rays showed it was intact and the pain has receded quickly. I could go on and on! The people at the rehabilitation center where she goes three times a week are agreed: “You have a powerful God!” Most Japanese look at religion in terms of what they can get out of it. (I don’t suppose that attitude is unique to Japan.) However, that misses the point of our time on earth being training for eternity. As Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25) As a pastor and missionary my task is to help people see the God who loves them enough to give them the opportunity to spend eternity with Him, rather than in unspeakable destruction. That’s a benefit worth more than all the world put together!
Father, thank You for Your grace, both Your common grace to all mankind and Your specific grace to me. Help me not take any of it for granted, but rather give You the gratitude, obedience, and praise You deserve, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!