Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Understand Your Fellow Man: Enjoying and enduring

For [God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
Matthew 5:45a

In the midst of perhaps the most famous monologue in all of history, Jesus delivers the truth above to the crowd that was listening to His Sermon on the Mount. The heading in most Bibles will say, "Love Your Enemies" above this section (verses 43-48), as this passage contains one of Christ's most famous expressions, that exact phrase: Love your enemies (v. 44).

The sentence I've sectioned off, however, becomes quite thought-provoking when the reader dwells on it. God, seemingly, treats the believing one no different than the unbelieving one in many respects. Think about the things followers of Jesus enjoy and endure just as their fellow men:
  • Sunshine
  • Rain
  • Opportunity (especially in America)
  • Discrimination
  • Wealth
  • Poverty
  • Friendships 
  • Bad relationships
  • Love 
  • Hatred
  • Peace
  • Terror
  • Community
  • Family
And the list goes on and on.

Out of all of the things on this list (and the things you may be thinking about in your own mind) and for the sake of this post, I want to focus on the good things, just as Jesus does in Matthew 5. 

Joe and Bill are both farmers in western Nebraska. Joe was raised going to a country Methodist church but things fizzled out when he moved out of the house and got his own plot of land. Bill, however, didn't go to church much when he was young. But ever since he went to a revival service at age 18, he's been hooked. He loves Jesus and he loves church. 

Bill, desiring to grow enough crops to make a living and provide for his family, also loves to share his excess crops with fellow Christians. Around town he's known for taking veggies to the VA nursing home. Even though he farms to put dinner on the table, giving generously really gives him joy. 

Joe farms because it's essentially all he's ever known. He likes to be out on his tractor because that means he's not in the house with his "old lady." His kids are grown and out of the house, and though he's not religious, he still takes a break on Sundays to kick back and relax -- as much as a farmer can, that is. 

Bill will often pray for rain and thank the Lord when his crops get it. Joe always talks about how he needs rain but never seems to be satisfied. 

They both get the same amount of rain.

Isn't that interesting? Have you ever thought about how we, as Christians, will pray for certain things to happen that won't just effect us but will effect everyone around us? And then, if it happens, we thank God. If it doesn't, we chalk it up (or should chalk it up) as being outside of His good and perfect will, resting in His sovereignty. 

And in the midst of resting in that truth, we often forget about our neighbors who are enduring/enjoying the same conditions because of the same God. Jesus is bringing this situation to light when He says that God "makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust," (note the emphasis).  

God hears the prayers of His saints and always responds to them -- yes -- but perhaps even more astounding is the fact that He is actively working in the lives of those who reject Him. He does this by giving them times of good and times of bad, times of little and times of plenty. His common grace is revealed by allowing all people, regardless of their eternal destiny, to enjoy and endure this earthly life and experience profound things.

I was recently reminded of this when I watched the latest video by quarterback Aaron Rodger's organization that sheds light on local charities. What Rodgers does is find people whose lives have been greatly affected by tragedy, joy, and often a combination of the both through the selfless acts of others. He then lets those individuals explain what that charity has done for them. The moments are very touching, as evidenced by the interactions captured on film:

The mission of Rodgers' organization is not to spread God's word or to make much of Jesus Christ, and in many ways it's actually very worldly. But there's something about this kind of thing that makes us deeply joyful -- for the children in the video above, for the hurting who have received comfort, and for the simple fact that someone with fame and wealth cares about those things.

My belief as to why all of these things happen -- both out there and in our hearts as we witness them -- is because of the image of God which is fused into the DNA of every man, woman, and child. We are all image-bearers of the Creator and in the fiber of our being we know what is truly good (though actually doing it or properly responding to it are different stories altogether). All of that is for next time, though. 

The reason why I bring up Aaron Rodgers and his work to illuminate the good works of others is because this is a clear example of God's common grace. Many, many people experience pain, suffering, hardship, and overwhelming affliction around the world. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists. Black, White, Asian, Hispanic. The elderly. The youth. All people are susceptible to tragedy. 

And yet, many, many people experience joy, love, peace, unity, and even success. The same demographics as noted above. All people are able to enjoy those things because of God's great, extending grace. 

To sum it up, we're all very much in this world together, sharing life experiences. Farmers Joe and Bill, your pastor and his family, your co-workers, the neighbor down the street who always gives you weird looks. All of us.

And God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed us all to benefit from His goodness. Each breath that rushes in and out of our lungs is a gift from God, regardless of who or what a person might attribute it to. It's His common grace.

In the following posts, I'm going to expound upon this very idea -- why God allows for common grace, how men respond, and what Christians need to know about the application behind the theology of it all.     

God bless.

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