As I write this, it’s late October. Outside, it’s a typical autumn day in Southern California, with sunny, clear skies. It will be getting back up into the 90s this week, with nary a hint of rain anywhere in the forecast.
I’m still hoping to see some significant rainfall this season, as we did last season. It was the end of a long drought in California. Perhaps it was only a temporary respite. But it was a glorious one. Our garden fairly exploded with color in the spring.
We don’t take rain for granted anymore, and praise God when it comes.
I’ve been reminded lately of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:
You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5:43-45, CEB)
Nowhere in Scripture, of course, are God’s people taught to hate their enemies. But we can surely understand how such a teaching would have become the common wisdom. Keep yourself pure. Don’t have anything to do with those half-breed Samaritans who don’t believe as we do. Don’t let yourself be contaminated by Gentiles. And don’t cozy up to those godless Romans who keep us under their thumb. We’re God’s children! They’re the enemy!
And then, with authority, Jesus tells them, The real children of God show a family resemblance to their heavenly Father. And what is God like? He’s righteous, but not self-righteous. He desires the good for all, even those who are evil. When the sun rises, it shines on everyone. When the rain falls, it brings water to everyone. So be like God. Love your enemies and pray for them.
But who is my enemy?
It doesn’t take much for us to label people as our enemies, to see them as if they deserved to be outside of God’s grace. We’re easily offended, and resentfully or self-righteously write people off. We cease to see them through the eyes of a loving and gracious God.
Katherine and Jay Wolf are known to many as living examples of faith and hope. Katherine was struck down by a congenital condition that caused a massive stroke and brain damage. She nearly died. But with a massive outpouring of support from a loving community of friends and family, they began to pick up the pieces, taking agonizingly slow steps toward partial recovery.
Jay recounts a difficult episode with an aide who worked in the ICU where Katherine was a patient. Jay had built an almost familial relationship with the hospital staff, such that they were willing to look the other way when his care for Katherine required bending a rule or two. But this aide was a stickler for the rules; to Jay, she seemed unnecessarily rude and lacking in compassion.
Katherine’s long blond hair was matted and caked with blood from surgery; the nurses asked if they should shave it off. Yes, Jay said, thinking she should have a fresh start, and not wanting to deal with the mess. No way, insisted Katherine’s mother. Tired and angry, Jay stalked out of the ICU.
When he returned, Jay was surprised to find that Katherine’s hair had been painstakingly washed, strand by strand. It had been lovingly braided, and finished with a colorful scrunchie. The process had taken four hours.
Who could have done such a generous thing?
The aide. The stickler.
Humbled and grateful, Jay embraced his former enemy.
Our God rains, indeed.