I don’t like the rain. I understand that it is a necessity, and I am thankful for it, but I prefer that it rain at night when I am asleep than in the middle of the day when I am trying to go business to business to sell copiers. I used to love the song “Rain, Rain go away…” When bad things happen, I have often heard Christians quote a passage from the Sermon on the Mount: “He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). This is usually quoted in the context of missed Baseball practices and parade cancellations. It is used as an explanation as to why bad things happen to good people.
Besides what this says about God, my main issue with this is that it is used in the opposite way that Jesus intended. The entire context is about how we are to love our enemies – not rain on their parades. Jesus begins by citing Leviticus 19:18 with an added bit of tradition, “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” This is the way that most people operate, and it is extraordinarily easy and natural to behave in this manner. Jesus, however, critiques the tradition and the normal opinions of social interaction by going on to encourage them to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors (Matthew 5:43). This flies in the face of everything that we know! It is evident that most people don’t believe this verse because of how they cheer for war and the death of America’s enemies. Some even celebrate when an opposing politician dies and, supposedly, goes to Hell to burn for an eternity. While I understand the unfortunate necessity of war and am glad that there are men and women who boldly risk their lives in the name of freedom, I do not see how any Christian can celebrate war when there are thousands of humans (including children) for whom Christ died that perish in these altercations. When Jesus looked out over Jerusalem, He did not chuckle to Himself and say, “These guys may crucify me, but boy are they going to be surprised in 40 years!” No. He wept and mourned over the coming battle that they were bringing upon themselves. Toby Keith said, “We’ll put a boot in their @$#; it’s the American way.” But is it the Christian way? I doubt it!
So, why should we show love for our enemies? The reasoning that Jesus offers is found in verse 45: “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” In an agrarian society, rain was not a curse but a blessing! In fact, the absence of rain was a curse (Amos 4:7). This verse is teaching that we should bless and pray for our enemies because God blesses and cares for those who are opposed to Him. He loves and blesses the evil and the good! Is that the God that you know? In like manner, God gathers both the evil and the good into the kingdom (Matthew 22:10). Limited atonement? I don’t think so. That idea fits more with the tradition that Jesus rejected than the God that Jesus talks about in the following verses who sends equal blessings on everyone. We serve a God who’s will is that everyone be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth – not a God who holds predestined grudges against people that have no realistic opportunity to accept the invitation to the kingdom (1 Timothy 2:4).
Jesus continues by explaining that loving only those who love us comes natural to everyone (Matthew 5:46-47). If we are to be perfect like our heavenly Father, however, we must break away from our comfort zone and bless those who hate us and show unwavering love for our enemies. Thank God for the rain!