But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
This verse came to mind yesterday as I watched and read the news from Texas. Like you, I want an explanation for the jaw-dropping natural disaster we call Harvey. In the context of this verse, rain was used an example of a blessing. Jesus was preaching His most famous message, "The Sermon on the Mount" and explaining how the love our enemies. He was likely speaking to many who farmed for a living, so rain would be considered an example of blessing and favor. For the folks listening, Jesus was explaining the ever present question, "Why do good things happen to wicked people?"
In this week's context, if we could sit down with our Savior, we would turn that question around and ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The entire Internet and media are working this out right now and this week has been like a kangaroo courtroom of witnesses offering what they know and don't know about a very difficult case. But Jesus' statement at the end of His sermon is very simple: Stuff Happens. Your job is to do nothing but love.
The rain fell on everyone in Texas. The rich and the poor, the young and old, the homeless and the well to do. Making a judgement as to why, how or who is to blame really gets these people nowhere. Jumping on the bandwagon to vilify mayors, first responders, pastors or presidents will not make the waters recede any faster. Perhaps it's our nature to be more like Job's friends and armchair quarterback every situation that shows up in our newsfeeds, but the reality is, most of us, dare I say, 100% of us don't know a darned thing.
I have over 1000 "friends" across Facebook and Twitter and not one has any real insight here. I see some wanting to claim this event as punishment either for electing a bombastic, hateful president or because our country has turned away from the Lord. Really? If you're a Jesus follower, then you ought to know the cross did away with such punishment and Jesus' words above do exactly what the cross did - they level the ground. Terrible things and wonderful things happen to all...it's not our job to do nothing in either situation, our job is to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors, to bless those who curse us and praise the Lord for the blessings we witness. That's it, end of discussion.
Even though I came across the verse from Matthew yesterday and found it timely, I woke up yesterday with another verse on my heart. Ephesians 6:12 played over and over in my ears as I got out of bed:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
I wondered to myself and to the Lord, "Why this verse?" Well, over that past couple of years and especially in the past few weeks, our country has been at war. Not with a another country necessarily, although international threats continue to loom, but with ourselves. We are at war with our President and hate groups. In my hometown, parents are at war with a school board who can't seem to get transportation figured out. And now, we are war with Harvey who has dumped as much water as the Chesapeake Bay on the 4th largest city in our nation. But the Ephesians verse says, "Wait a minute...step back." The President and the hate group leaders are not your enemy, the televangelist is not your enemy, the school board is not your enemy, a hurricane is not your enemy - the enemy is Satan, plain and simple.
If you're not a believer, I may have lost you here but hear me out. Evil is real. I'm not telling you Satan spun up that hurricane, but I'm even more confident than ever that evil forces are behind every hate-filled argument and the turning of neighbor against neighbor. The more we focus on having to win an argument, make our point and put down someone else's viewpoint the less we can love and help.
Lives are literally at stake right now - every moment counts. It's simple: Are you helping or hurting? Are we damming up the mercy that flows from the cross or do we allow it to flood our hearts and pour itself out on others? Some of this sounds so trite, even to me, but I don't think it's a coincidence that Jesus ended his most famous sermon with a reminder to love because it's often the first thing we forget to do when tempted by evil.