The rain falls

You’ve heard it, right?

“The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

We quote it quite often to imply that bad things happen to good people, but do we possibly have it backward? Rain could mean blessings, after all it takes rain to grow a crop and to provide a break from the drought. In fact, with the exception of the flood, rain is not depicted as a bad thing. So what of this verse? Well, let’s start by reading it in context.

“In this way you show that you are children of your Father in heaven. He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

Why is Jesus having this conversation? What is He teaching? He’s teaching about love. More importantly, He is talking about loving your enemies. See, we are an “either/or”,” this or that” society and culture. But Jesus was in an “either/and” as well as a “this and this” culture. Many times in order to emphasize something it was said a multitude of times, three times would be the ultimate number of repetitions. In this moment with the disciples Jesus is in the process of telling them and retelling them that God provides blessing (the sun rising) and blessing (the rain fall) on the just and the unjust. That’s important!

This same conversation is recorded in Luke, and He words it a little differently (and since He’s a doctor, maybe a little more intellectually.)

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Ahhh. The and with the and. “He is kind (the sun shines, the rain falls) to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Wait. Matthew puts the “unjust” in there, but Luke says overwhelmingly, “the wicked.” We know it is the same conversation, the same teaching.. So why the different verbiage? Maybe it has more to do with the writer than the Speaker.

Who is Matthew? A formerly, notoriously unjust man, a tax collector. He is there as Jesus is sharing this story about loving your enemies (of which he knows he was one) and as He speaks, Matthew is experiencing blessing! Not only was God kind to him, He had chosen him as a follower and cohort and put him in charge of the money! Okay. That’s like the the alcoholic being keeper of the wine for the Lord’s supper. That is a responsibility not just of trust but of proof of redemption! Matthew is hearing this through the ears of a formally publicly condemned sinner, and in his interpretation Jesus might as well be pointing at him, “See? I bless and hang out with those you’ve condemned.” Luke on the other hand didn’t have that lens, he heard Jesus say that God is kind to those we might consider wicked, enemies of our souls. Both men share the same message of Jesus to love those who do evil just as God does, but in their interpretations based on their personal experience, we hear how that message affects each one! But, the message is the same, “God who loves and is kind to those who hate him, asks the same of you.”

I can’t help but think of Christians and our wrestle with the LBGTQ community. So many call them on sin saying they are sinners, stopping short of calling them wicked (or some out and out doing so), but if that’s the case, God is kind to them. He chooses to bless them and give them good things, regardless. So “Love your enemy” looks more like be kind to your enemy and bless your enemy… And enemies look like those we don’t agree with who commit actions that we think are evil or against God’s plan. Ahhh. And, they are entitled to the sun and the rain just as the Godly are, without prejudice or bias or judgement. That looks different, that feels different, that steps on the toes of the righteously political. But, that’s what loving our neighbor looks like – Doing for others not because they deserve it or because they are worthy, but because we recognize we aren’t, and, as much as it may pain us to speak it, God desires to see them blessed.

Crazy, this God Who loves us – ALL of us! And the rain falls equally across the landscape of humanity.

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Hurricane Lily

I admit that when we named our youngest child, we weren’t thinking about the fact that she would share the name with a hurricane, a very bad one, at that. There was no way we could have foreseen such activity from her, either. I’d already had one child, so when I had to jiggle my belly and consume large amounts of chocolate before this one would even roll over or stretch, I figured, “This is gonna be easy!” Ha! I would like to say I am sure in those moments the Lord above chuckled with a mysterious and knowing twinkle in His eye.

Oh, we weren’t clued in at first. No! She was a sweet little baby..she cooed and giggled and fluttered her little lashes. I couldn’t have been more pleased!

Fast forward a mere 8 years later… Holy Cow! Let me say, I love my Lily! She is a boisterous, energetic ball of fun, but I had no warning signs, no premonitions, just BAM! Hurricane Lily! She doesn’t stop until her little body just gives out. She wakes up ready for the day (most days…we all have our days) and she goes to sleep in pretty much the same strain of energy. I marvel at her. I am convinced that if I could bottle that I would be a quatrillionaire! (And yes, it would be a number! I would make it a number. I’d be a quatrillionaire!) But seriously, she is teaching me.

This child is ignited and saturated with passion! She passionately loves, and she vehemently hates! And she can switch from one to the other in zero point three seconds. It’s fascinating to watch. It doesn’t take much, either. It can literally play out like this: “Oh yes, you made brownies! You are the best mom in the world!! Wait. No milk. You HATE me!” I admit it’s a little stressful, wondering what might set her off…but here is another thing about her whirlwind of emotions – they play out quickly. She absolutely does NOT hold a grudge. She has a great memory – she does like to tattle on her sister, but when it comes to her grievances, she will sooner let them go than anyone I know…myself included.

She’s compassionate. It’s as if she instinctively knows, “This person needs me to be sensitive.” She is a good helper. In first grade she sat next to a girl that lost one of her arms to cancer – Lily made it her job to help Aiyana color when her arm got tired, and when we prayed at night, Lily always remembered Aiyana and prayed for her. In fact, this summer, when we got the news that Aiyana had gone to be with Jesus, the hurricane stopped; she looked at me with big blue eyes, wet with tears and said, “She’s coloring with both hands now.” Yep. That’s my Lily.

She loves to make others happy. It thrills her to make us laugh, and most the time the humor is potty-related. But, she makes me belly-laugh faster than I can type LOL. She brings a smile to my face when she is concentrating on something, and when she gets it, the brightness in her eyes is precious. She writes love songs to Jesus, and tells me, “Momma, I love you one million and 76, but I love God twenty million and 77!” She loves her Daddy more than any other man on earth, and she has often pouted because he is married (and shoots me a sideways evil-eye because he married me.) She’s not perfect. We still struggle with sharing from time to time, and not a day goes by that I don’t find a new claw mark on her big sister; but she’s 8, I give her grace.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, today, as I was cleaning up her room (and ironically, she keeps it very tidy most days), I realized I miss her while she is at school. She really is a light in this house. She brings me more joy than I ever imagined, and I know that she makes God smile, too – probably more so then myself, because He knows what all those characteristics mean, and the woman of passion and purpose that she will one day become.  But for now, I’m still waiting for the bus to come, waiting until I hear Hurricane Lily storm in. She’ll probably rush in with a tattle on her tongue over something her sister did or some funny story she heard at school, or urgently request a new Barbie (probably a Ken doll because she is convinced that the one she plays with is cheating on President Barbie with Mermaid!)  With her, you never know, but I love it. Around here, life is never boring!