"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
God's goodness is experienced by all creation, and everyone who has ever lived has personally benefited from the grace of God in numerous ways. In Psalm 33:5b the psalmist wrote, "The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord."
Matthew 5:45b tells us that God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Theologians refer to this as God's common grace. One author described it this way: "He gives both the righteous and the unrighteous food to eat, a fire to keep warm, water to quench thirst. He gives us all blue sky, a warm sun, green grass, and beautiful mountains."
If you were God, things would be very different, wouldn't they? If your neighbor ridiculed you for going to church, you would cause rain to fall on every lawn except his. In fact, you might even strike his yard with lightning and destroy his lawn altogether! But God doesn't do that. Your neighbor's lawn might look better than yours, or his kids seem healthier than yours, or his promotions come faster than yours, and his appliances last longer than yours!
God allows unbelievers to experience relationships that bring love and happiness. He gives them the thrill of excitement over the birth of a child, or the accomplishment of a life-long project. He gives them a sense of personal worth and an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong. Unbelievers can paint, sing, create, innovate; write symphonies, build skyscrapers, invent medical cures, design computer programs.
Sadly, David lamented in Psalm 107:8, "Oh, that men would praise the LORD for His lovingkindness." But they don't do that, do they?
They ignore His goodness and take it for granted. As Romans 1:21 says, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Yet God continues to pour out his lovingkindness even on those who will not acknowledge Him, nor give thanks to Him.
Did you know that we are to do the same? As Christ's ambassadors in this world, we are to show the same love and goodness to our enemies as God shows to us. Romans 5:7-8 declares, "For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In other words, we are not to wish for the destruction of unbelievers, but rather to pray for their salvation. We are not to think hateful thoughts of them and condemn them in our minds, but rather forgive them for any grievance against us, and show them the love of Christ.
Loving our enemies is not an easy task, but it is what God did for us. If we are to be Christ's representatives in the world, we must learn to show "common grace" as He does . . . to all men.
Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you a merciful and gracious spirit toward unbelievers, rather than a prideful and domineering spirit which constantly says, "Look, I'm better than you." Thank God for loving you while you were still an enemy and a sinner, giving you an example of how you are to love others.
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 10:25-37.
Copyright 2010 Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. This article first appeared on Crosswalk.com.