Since taking up farming, I have come to realize the importance of two very vital ingredients to life: Light and Water. I have an experimental aquaponics system set-up in the garage and when the grow lights stop working, my plants and fish suffer after only a short amount of time. What is even worse is when my water level gets too low or water quality too poor. Then, I start killing both my plants and my fish very quickly.
I need light and I need water. Or I will not survive as a farmer.
Jesus took his position on “the Mount” to begin sermonizing about 2000 years ago and he understood that the people he spoke to were typically either fishermen or they were farmers. It was an agricultural society, nevertheless, and if you have ever lived in a small farming town, you know that even the bankers, the sheriff, and the waitresses live and breathe by the falling of the rain and the amount of sunlight made to bathe the community’s crops.
So Jesus took his place at the top of that hill and he began preaching on Love. But not even halfway through, Jesus started meddling and he pointed out that those people should be loving EVERYONE . . . and not just their neighbors and friends. They should love their enemies, too.
And Jesus then backed this point up by saying–God loves everyone, without exception, and so should you.
To illustrate this point, he said:
For [God] gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust unlike.
Now, I used to conveniently excuse this uncomfortable point by clinging to Jesus’ use of the words “evil” and “unjust.” Meaning, I’d say to myself: “Yeah, he says that. But he also admits they are evil and unjust, soooo . . .”
So? So what. I was still better. Because I am neither evil nor unjust. And who cares if they get sunshine? They also get rain poured on them, too, right?
The problem with that interpretation and application is two-fold: 1. Both the sunshine and the rain are good and loving blessings. And, 2., Jesus wasn’t making a judgment call–he was mocking our judgment call of people. He was saying this: “regardless of what you call them, you must LOVE THEM!”
So what is the real importance of this? It is this: It reveals something vital about the Gospel.
It reveals that the key proposition in the Gospel is not that Jesus came for you, but that Jesus came for everyone; and while that, of course, includes you it is not exclusive to you.
The importance in this shift in perspective is this: You are not really special. You are just not. God loves everyone identically. There is nothing about who you are or what you do that entitles you to God’s favor. And so here is the golden vein through this–that you don’t have to be special, or better, or specially favored. God loves you like God loves everyone . . . regardless of what you do.
So God loves everyone, regardless of what they do, too. He also loves regardless of whether they care or ever respond to that love.
So, then, if you are not indeed favored then what, if anything, makes you unique?
Your uniqueness is found in the Greatest Command to love and your response to it. Love like God loves–and that means everyone.
Love the folks in your church that haven’t been in awhile and may be angry about a few things.
Love the folks that go to a church different from you.
Love those who never go to church.
Love those who believe in a different faith and concept of a god.
Love those who angrily rant that God doesn’t exist.
Love those who look different from you,
or think different from you,
even those who vote different from you,
and, especially, those who love different from you.
God blesses them in the very same way God blesses you. God loves them, too.
Your uniqueness is found in your groaning attempts to love everyone that isn’t you. Because, in all other ways, you are just not special.
But love is special. Let that remake you.