Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:45a “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in
Having explained (5:44) in precise detail exactly what it means to “love your enemies,” Jesus now proceeds to tell us why our lives should be characterized by unconquerable goodwill toward our enemies. The reason is simple. This kind of love makes us like God. A man whose dignity had been affronted said he was determined to retaliate, for it was the manly thing to do. A friend agreed it would be manly to strike back, but then added, “It would be God-like to forget it.”
God loves His enemies, and the goal of a Christian is to be like God. “The perfection of worship is imitation, and when men call Him Father whom they adore, imitation becomes the natural action of a child who loves” (Maclaren).
The ultimate proof of sonship is resemblance. God’s children are God-like. A happy reward we glean from loving our enemies is that we provide for ourselves obvious evidence we are true children of the Father. We prove we are His when willing to go against our own natural desires and do a most difficult duty.
One reason Christians often lack assurance of salvation is that we know we are doing little contrary to ourselves. When we realize in our heart of hearts we have done something against ourselves for God, we enjoy Heaven in our breast. God loves His enemies. As His children, our joy is to show the same generosity.
Matt. 5:45b “. . .for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,. . .”
The One who commands us to love our enemies practices what He preaches. The ongoing evidence and proof of God’s love for His enemies is revealed in mankind’s two main sources of maintenance. Sunshine and rain are nature’s everyday beautiful expressions of God’s undying love for all, including His enemies.
Our forebears rightly gave our deity the title “God,” the Old English word meaning “the good one.” The Lord is good to all. He opens His hands, “and satisfies the desire of every living thing” (PS 145:16). From sun-up to sun-down, the sun majestically preaches the love of God, and rain gently distills His compassion into a refreshing spray. The whole solar system operates on a principle directly opposite to the narrow sentiment expressed in “hate thine enemy” (5:43).
Much of this world’s operation is governed by Providence without regard to character. God, to thwart Pharaoh, did once forbid His sun to shine on Egyptians, and let Israel have light. God could make the same distinction every hour of every day, but chooses instead to be characterized by a worldwide kindness. He beneficently nourishes, sustains, and loves even those who break His laws and His heart.
Even God’s worst enemies are allowed to partake of God’s comforts though they abuse them, and actually fight against God with His own weapons. From God’s own atmosphere, people draw air which they use to blaspheme, slander, and curse. From God’s own soil, the evil grow illicit drugs which they sell to ruin lives. From God-given food, people gain energy to abuse and neglect others. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father” (JM 1:17), but the atheist never offers thanks. Despite these affronts, what does God do? He sends sun and rain on the evildoers anyway. Nature makes no distinction, common grace benefits everyone, because God is good and kind.
This truth begs explanation. Why are many of God’s blessings given without respect to merit? Why does He benefit wrongdoers? When everything in us screams for vengeance, when our faith is strained to the point of incredulity, when even the martyrs in heaven are crying out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood?” (RV 6:10 NAS), why does God tarry? The answer is easily stated, but actually makes the scenario more perplexing. God is kind to all to show His winsomeness, to win and attract people to Himself. Amazingly, He gives them good gifts to woo them to even better gifts.
“God loves all men apart altogether from any regard to character, therefore He gives to all men all the good gifts that they can receive apart from character, and if evil men do not get His best gifts, it is not because He withholds, but because they cannot take” (Maclaren).
God is not soft on sin or oblivious to evil. There comes a reckoning for everyone, a time and place for justice, but God tarries long. If justice were the only characteristic displayed by God now, nature would help the good and destroy the evil, but obviously, justice is not the only or chief operative trait God displays in any given moment. Be assured, God is just, His justice will prevail, He will never be unfair, but while we await that settling of all accounts, this is the day of grace.
God’s primary design in dealing with this present world through nature is kindness. He is saying this is an era of mercy and grace. Judgment will come, but now kindness rules. We prefer full justice and revenge now, but God says, “No!”
In another world and era, on another day, justice and judgment will reign supremely and solely forevermore. In the meantime, mercy reigns supreme. The sheep and goats live together, the wheat and tares grow side by side. God sends sun and rain on both, saying He loves all, and has even greater gifts to give.
The sun shining on earth faintly reflects a brighter Son who wants to shine in our hearts. Rain faintly pictures showers of spiritual blessings God desires to pour on us. He courts wrongdoers, hoping they will through His good physical gifts be won to His better spiritual gifts. Even in our sin He pursues us. Of all believers God can say, “I am found of them that sought me not” (IS 65:1).
A classic example was Colonel Gardiner, one of England’s most devout Christians. In his early days, he one night planned a secret rendezvous to commit a horrible act of sin. His date was late–one hour, two hours, still no one came. As Gardiner waited, he heard within the soft voice of His crucified Savior, “I did all this for thee, what hast thou done for me?” By God’s grace, the other person never arrived for the rendezvous that night, and Gardiner’s heart was melted for Christ.
What kind of God is this, who snatches us from sin while our hand clutches the very cup of evil itself? He is a God who loves His enemies, a God who never asks us to do anything but what He is already doing multiplied many times over.
God loves His enemies to make them His friends, and expects His friends to be like Him, to be part of the masterplan which changes enemies into friends. Our enemies are to see Jesus’ love for them through the way we treat them. Love is our most powerful tool to win the lost.
This week I had the honor of meeting a believer from a land where believers are at risk. He told of a General who launched a holy war against Christians. In a cold, calculated, well-planned diabolical scheme, the General masterminded a nationwide attack which in two hours burned to the ground the country’s sixty-nine largest church buildings. The General, being a capable soldier, planned for the retaliation. Anticipating the counterattack, he waited and waited and waited. It never came. The Christians refused to strike back. The General researched why, and in time became a Christian, an enemy whom Christians loved into being a friend.