He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
It is raining today. For the people of northern North Dakota that is a blessing. We have had a very dry second half of the summer. Our lawns are brown and the farmers are concerned about the crops. Today’s steady rain is the very thing we need. For us it is a real blessing.
The people who live in southern North Dakota and Southern Minnesota have a different perspective. They have had an extremely wet summer. The sight of more rain is not greeted with joy. Instead of seeing the rain as a blessing, they see the rain as a burden.
We all have a mix of responses to rain. When there is too little, we long for more. When there is too much, we long for less. We want rain to keep our lawns green and the crops growing, but we don’t want it on the weekend when we have plans. The farmer prays for rain, while the family going camping prays for dry weather. When it comes to rain, you cannot please everyone all of the time.
The Bible uses rain as a symbol of God’s grace. It represents both God’s general grace and His specific grace. God’s general grace is His provision for all humanity regardless of their faith. God’s specific grace is reserved for those who put their trust in Him.
In both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, rain is seen as a blessing from God for those who faithfully trust Him.
If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit.
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-- then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
For a people who lived close to the land, rain was a matter of life and death. If they did not get timely rains, they could be faced with genuine hardships. As the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, God told them that, if they remained faithful to Him, He would provide the rain that they needed at the proper time. It was a tangible symbol of God’s grace to them.
God also uses rain as a way of showing His grace to all humanity. When the rains come, they do not just fall on the field of the righteous, but on the field of the unrighteous as well. Although God could withhold the rain from them, He chooses not to do so. Instead, He choses to bless all people, with the intent of drawing them to Himself.
Jesus used the grace of God, in the form of rain, to instruct us about how we should relate to those around us. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus makes a radical statement about God’s grace and our relationship with others.
“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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus used rain as an expression of God’s extravagant love and grace toward all people. Although God has the right to withhold His grace from the unrighteous, He choses not to. Instead, He showers His grace upon them in very tangible ways. He calls us to do the same thing. Instead of seeing people as our enemy, as someone to oppose, we are to see them through the eyes of God’s compassion. When we respond to our enemies with grace, we have the opportunity to win them over.
Paul makes it clear that the best way to overcome an evil person is to surprise them with grace.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Jesus said that when we respond to our enemies with grace, we reflect the glory of God and demonstrate that we are truly His. To be like God is to take the unexpected path of grace. It is to show love and compassion to all people, even if they do not respond in kind. Many people will not understand our response. Some will see it as a sign of weakness. But, if we are consistent, what they think is weakness will clearly to be shown as strength.
It is raining today. You may see the rain as a blessing or you may be disappointed by the rain. Whatever your attitude is today, I want you to see the rain as a tangible symbol of God’s grace. It is God’s grace poured out on all of humanity. It is also a call for us to share that same grace with those around us.