Matthew 5:44-45 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
I find this passage to be enigmatic among the sayings of Yeshua, as it seems to contrast believers’ actions that are active with those of God that are assumed to be passive. We are commanded to actively love and pray for our adversaries, however, God’s natural order of things is for the sun to shine and the rain to fall. Is God actively blessing the evil by causing the sun to shine on their crops or actively sending rain for the purpose of blessing the unrighteous? Or are these impartial, passive blessings that are received by the evil and unrighteous just for the privilege of living in the natural world that God has created?
Based on the perspective of the biblical writings, God is not passive in his Creation, but he is actively involved with blessing all of mankind, while still ordering all things according to his will and purpose.
Ecclesiastes 3:11, 13-14 – He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end. … It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him.
Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
According to the apostle Paul, God’s invisible attributes can be deduced from his visible, natural Creation.
Romans 1:20 – For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Paul actually engages this type of argument while reasoning with the Greek philosophers at the Areopagus.
Acts 17:24-27 – “The God who made the world and everything in it – he is Lord of heaven and earth – does not live in shrines made by hands. “Neither is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. “From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. “He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
If we consider that even being alive as an individual on this planet is truly a gift from God, something that we as individual beings have zero control over, how much more the bounty of God’s provision is evidenced through the natural order of his Creation. This was even recognized among the secular philosophers of the day. Consider the statement of Seneca, a Roman philosopher of the first century, which is almost a direct parallel to the saying of Yeshua:
“If you imitate the gods, give favors to the ungrateful: for the sun rises for the wicked, and the seas are open to pirates.”
This idea of providing favors to the ungrateful, or as Yeshua states, loving and praying for the wicked and unrighteous, was considered a “godly” attribute even among the philosophers of the day.
John Wesley has an interesting take on this verse, focusing instead on how those generic blessings are received by those who don’t know God.
“He gives them such blessings as they will receive at his hands. Spiritual blessings they will not receive.”
This implies that non-believers, while not willing to submit to the spiritual requirements of God, nonetheless are willing to take whatever benefit they can from the Creation of God and use it for their own ends. For me, this illustrates how things meant to bless others can be taken for granted with no recognition or acknowledgement of the privilege provided. I believe this captures the sentiment that Yeshua is seeking to provide in this instruction.
Adam Clarke provides even further clarity in this regard as to the results of the those favors or blessings, even if they by-and-large go unacknowledged.
“There is nothing greater than to imitate God in doing good to our enemies. All the creatures of God pronounce the sentence of condemnation on the revengeful: and this sentence is written by the rays of the sun, and with the drops of rain, and indeed by all the natural good things, the use of which God freely gives to his enemies. If God had not loved us while we were his enemies, we could never have become his children: and we shall cease to be such, as soon as we cease to imitate him.”
God demonstrates that he loves all people by giving them life and blessings through his Creation. Yeshua encourages us as believers to mimic our heavenly Father by having our prayers and intercessions for the ungrateful and unworthy simply be a natural outworking of who we are, just as the sun rising and the rain falling are the natural outworking of God’s handiwork on a daily basis. Our love and forgiveness for all others should be as natural for us as sunshine and rain are for God: all day, every day.
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