(This is part two of a series on Matthew 5:38-48)
And then Jesus gets tougher.
We try to create lines between friends and foes. And if someone is an enemy, we label them. And we dump hate on them.
Jesus says that God dumps rain on them.
Jesus says that his people are to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. Jesus says that’s how to know that you belong to God, if you are loving your enemies and praying for them.
Because, Jesus says, that’s what God does. He continues to give them air. He continues to give them rain. Unlike the assumption that bad people are punished by bad storms, the experience is that bad people get nice rains just as much as good people, and that bad people get just as much sunshine as good people. Because God loves those who are enemies of his, and those who persecute his people.
This sun and rain distribution doesn’t mean that evil doesn’t have consequences. But they are not up to us to distribute.
We can understand a little better what it means when we look at Jesus.
Love your enemies, he says, and pray for those who persecute you. In a few weeks, we will read the story of Good Friday. And we will read that Jesus will be hanging on a cross. With enemies and people who persecuted him to death.
And as he is hanging on the cross, he says, “Father, forgive them.” He prays for those who persecuted him.
I talk to people. They tell me, “that person at work is trying to make my life miserable.” And I say, “How are you praying for them?” And they say, “I don’t know. That they get fired?” And I say, “talk to Jesus about it. Tell him what’s happening. Ask him to improve the attitude of the other, to alleviate whatever the insecurity is that is causing the meanness.”
What I’m really saying is, “talk to the one person I know who fully understands what it’s like to be so misunderstood that you are killed for it, to be completely blameless.”
We are living after centuries of people trying to explain and excuse and exploit what Jesus says. People have been abused BY this teaching, where people in authority taught “respect authority” and then abused it.
But the way people abuse his words doesn’t remove them. We are still called in the million situations that we have in our daily lives, most of us, to love those who are against us, and to pray for them.