so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)
We looked last week at Jesus’ command to love our enemies. The more we realise the implications of this, the more we realise that this is one of the hardest commands for a Christian to obey. We are not just being asked to forgive and move on, but to self-sacrificially show true love to our enemies, to bless them instead of cursing them and to do it over and over again.
The beginning of the verse today shows us why. It is important to understand what this verse is not saying. It is not saying that if we obey Jesus’ command we will become a Christian. Outside of Christ this command is impossible to obey. This verse is saying that by obeying this command we are showing whose Children we belong to. In the natural world, children very often resemble their parents in many ways. They may look like them and act like them. Jesus is saying here that when we love our enemies we are behaving exactly like our father in heaven, proving that we are His children. Every last one of us were enemies of God in our nature and choices, but God showed His amazing love for us by sending His son to die for us. He demonstrated His love. Words are meaningless without actions. God demonstrated His words with actions. Christians over the years have all too often been accused of not practising what we preach, of even being hypocritical, which is sadly so often true. Jesus is saying in this passage “prove them wrong, show them that I have changed you by my love.” Nothing will speak louder to non-Christians that God has the power to change people when we love our enemies. Because nothing is so contrary to human nature and so in sync with God’s nature.
It’s important to see in this verse today that God doesn’t have any favourites. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean He loves you more than others. We can very easily fall into this way of thinking and it can make us complacent. God loves all and the bible says that He; is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
We were all, at one time, enemies of God, but through His kindness, mercy and great love, He has demonstrated the effectiveness of loving our enemies over and over again.
The doctrine of God treating us all the same is called ‘common grace’ and it is alluded to in the second part of today’s verse.
Common grace is a demonstration of the goodness, mercy and love of God to all mankind regardless of salvation, acknowledgement or even thankfulness. He bestows this grace because it is in his very nature to do so.
The Lord is good to all and His mercy is over all that He has made. (Psalm 145:9)
This grace is what stops mankind from descending into chaos by following our natural fallen nature and an inclination to selfishness and sin. Without God we would descend rather rapidly. The bible clearly teaches that in our natural state we are completely corrupt with nothing good within us.
None is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10)
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
Common grace restrains the full expression of this inherent wickedness in all of us.
Within common grace, God has given us a conscience, which enables us to know the difference between right and wrong, and to some degree He places moral constraints on evil behaviour. He has provided order in human society through government (see Romans 13:1-5). It is also demonstrated in His long-suffering and patience in allowing mankind to continue so long in rebellion towards Him. This grace also provides us with so much that we enjoy, enabling us to admire beauty and goodness and pursue all kinds of creativity. The good that is within people is not a natural seed of humanity, but evidence of God’s common grace. And as we can see in today’s verse it provides for sun and rain and all conditions that allow for crops to grow and the earth to flourish. In all but a very few cases it also averts natural disasters.
Because of all these many benefits common grace ought to be enough to move sinful people to repentance.
God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)
Yet because of the depravity of our human hearts, so many can miss this gift and spurn the goodness of God.
Some may look at the world and question all the sorrow within it but the only reason the sorrow and tragedy stand out is because there is also much joy and gladness. The only reason we recognize the ugliness is because God has given us so much beauty. The only reason we feel the disappointment is that there is so much that satisfies. When we understand that all of humanity is fallen, rebellious and unworthy of any blessing from God’s hand, it helps give a better perspective. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22)(NIV).
The only reason God ever gives us anything to laugh at, smile at, or enjoy is because He is a good and loving God. If He were not, we would be immediately consumed by His wrath. What an amazing God He is!