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In this essay we will try to say something construc­tive about the seemingly knotty exegetical question of what is meant by Jesus, when He says “became He causes His sun to rise on evil and good and rains upon just and unjust”.

It should be kept very sharply before our minds that the subject that Jesus is here bringing to the foreground is these verses is not God’s providential acts in creation and nature, but that He is most em­phatically speaking of the righteousness of the King­dom of heaven, as this must come to full fruition in our lives as subjects of the Kingdom.

To lose sight of this question of what is really the subject will make it impossible to understand the teaching of Jesus here and what its meaning is concretely in our lives. We must be more than theologi­cal scholars; we must here be very quiet and obedient children, sons of God!

Yes, that is it. We must be fully sons of God. We must become this. Our whole mind, soul, strength, our whole heart and life must be ruled by Christ’s Word and Spirit. The precept of the Gospel must more and more be part and parcel of our life. We must more and more live Christ. That is the thrust of Jesus’ teaching us, that the law and the prophets must be fulfilled to the last iota and tittle.

That is the subject here.

Now what has God’s providential dealings with men to do with Jesus’ subject that we become more perfect sons of God?

In general we may say, and that, toof without fear of contradiction, that God’s dealings with evil and good, righteous and unrighteous must be the pattern of our dealings with our enemies. To put it more sharply: God’s fatherly providential dealings in crea­tion with evil and good, righteous and unrighteous, as this is exhibited before my very eyes each day of the year, must be the pattern of my dealings with my enemies as I meet them day by day. As God deals without discrimination so too I must deal without dis­crimination for one and against.the other.

Such is the thrust of this passage. I must not love my neighbor and hate my enemy. I must love and pray for those who hate me.

But now there is a seeming difficulty in the text. It is this: I must love my enemies as God loves His enemies? For such seems to be the natural sequence

of thought. For the text speaks of “good and evil and righteous and unrighteous.” Two classes of men. The wicked and the righteous, the reprobate and the elect.

Such seems to be the problem here.

On the one hand there are the exponents of the theory of “Common Grace”, who clinging to the dis­tinction of “the good and the evil, and the just and the unjust”, maintain with might and main that here we have a common love, grace,—“a certain attitude of favor” over the non-elect. Here, so it is said, we have the perfect proof, an explicit statement of Jesus which both in the light of the context and of the words them­selves, cannot be interpreted in any other sense than that of a “Common Grace”, without doing violence to the text!

On the other hand there are those who deny this theory of “common grace”. These maintain that there is no common grace here at all. The righteous here and the unrighteous, good and evil are both the elect of God. It is true, that God causes His sun to shine upon the non-elect also, the rains also desend upon the fields of the wicked, but that is not what Jesus is here pointing too. He is pointing to the Fatherly provi­dential dealings with His own people. Thus the text can stand in its power. The pattern of our dealings with our enemies is thus a full pattern; it is not sim­ply an internal copying of God’s externally manifested deeds in providence, but it is loving as God loves, and seeking to make the neighbor perfect as God does too in His longsuffering.

Hence, I then love my enemies as God loves His enemies.

This is, I am certain, the point Jesus would have us see and emulate in our lives.

In the first place, we should notice that “evil and good, righteous and unrighteous” do not represent two absolutely different groups of people. For the terms used by Jesus, as well as the order in which they are arranged, suggest something quite different. In the original Greek, it should be observed, the article is lacking. We simply read “evil and good, righteous and unrighteous”. No, the text does not say: the evil and good, the righteous and unrighteous! This indicates that the nature of man is being referred to in relationship to the perfected love, rather then the class of men to which they belong is distinction from other men. It is important to notice this. Then too, this is underscored by the chiatic order of the words. We do not read: evil and good, unrighteous and righteous, but we read: evil and good, righteous and unrighteous. The order is inverted. Why? Be­cause evidently, no classes of men are meant, but sim­ply the spiritual ethical nature of one group of men is meant, as they live and move and have their being as neighbors. Not two classes, but two kinds in one class. The distinction is very relative, but not absolute.

In the second place, we should notice, that evil and good men, righteous nad unrighteous men are here viewed in their capacity of being very concretely our neighbors. They are evil and good, righteous and unrighteous as we evaluate them; we judge of them in our limited judgment (and sometimes faulty) in the light of the law of God, and their treatment of us. But then too conversely it is true, that we ourselves are amongst these evil and good, since we too are neighbor of another. These neighbors are, therefore, not the absolutely righteous and unrighteous. For an absolutely unrighteous man, who hates God and re­jects Christ, denying that Jesus is the Son of God, is not a neighbor in Israel, but he is a Gentile and a Publican. (Compare Matt. 18:17). Such a man is called the Gentile and the Publican. Hence, the scope of neighbor here is within the domain of Israel, where God says: I am the Lord, thy God who hath delivered thee from Egypt, from the house of bondage. Hence, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil are such as I see and evalute them in their im­perfect life of faith and godliness, in their “not yet” completely perfected life of love, that casts out all fear. For Christ is here not promulgating the law of the kingdoms of the world, but He is teaching the heirs of the Kingdom and of the Promise, the poor in spirit and those who mourn, the meek and those hungering and thirsting after righteousness, the pure in heart and the peace makers, those who are blessed in being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, how love must be without dissimulation, and be perfected to the perfect standard of love as manifested in our heavenly Father’s loving dealings. For by all means, this pas­sage must be left to stand in its great and strategic place in Jesus’ teaching of the last iota and tittle of the law, in the life of grace and righteousness!

Thirdly, this is corroborated by the contrast which Jesus Himself draws between the Gentile and his ac­cepted code of conduct and the sons of God and their conformation to the life and image of God. Twofold people we have here. And that absolutely too. The Gentiles are a people with whom we cannot live ex­cept with the very peril of our lives. Thus it became clear in the entire history of Israel in relationship to the Canaanite and the surrounding, nations. And thus it is given today. We cannot adopt the morals of the life of the teachings of man in his denial of God and of Christ. That is an absolute distinction. Here we hate those who hate God with a perfect hatred. And we do this in the same measure that we love the brother, our neighbor through sunshine and storm; as long as we practice love toward such a brother we walk the more excellent way. Well, that is what Jesus has in mind here by warning against doing toward our neighbor, as the Gentiles, do to their neighbors, and as the Publicans do to their fellow publicans. The men of this world may be wise in their generation with practical wisdom, but they are never just in their generation. Them we must not emulate. We may not be conformed to this world, but must be transformed in the renewal of our minds.

Two matters we have thus established as being the clear teaching of the text. Firstly, the text, while speaking of righteous and unrighteous, is not speaking of two absolutely different classes of men, such as, sons of the Kingdom and the Gentiles, but speaks of two ethically-morally different qualifications within the scope of the kingdom of Israel, “thy neighbor”. Secondly, that this makes “thy neighbor”—the neigh­bor whom I am to love, even tho he be my emeny.

Now we can proceed.

How must I conceive of God, the Father’s dealing with these evil and good? That is not hard. It simply means that God in lovingkindness gives us to taste His goodness (Chreestos) in the causing of His sun to rise on us and our neighbors as we are in principle renewed children of the King. We must take God’s dealing with these very evil and good, just and un­just as the daily pattern of my dealings with them.

My neighbor does not do me good, it is true. He sins also against God. Yes, he is a brother actual or potential (as I see it) but he sins against me. Must I now cause the light of my countenance to fall upon him and give him to drink? Our Father in heaven surely does not dim the sun upon him, refusing him the light of day, does He? Our Father did not com­mand the clouds to withhold their rain from him, did He? Over these very evil and good, among which I too am, God causes His face to shine in the sunshine and rain in Fatherly care for our needs. He cares for us, more than for the sparrows and the lilies of the field. Shall we do less to this brother, neighbor?

Here is the great alternative.

I can wish my brother (enemy) the light of day and love him returning blessing for cursing, good for evil, or I can curse him, wishing God to withhold from him the very light of day. But if I wish my neighbor, enemy, the light of day, I shall not withhold from him the very things, which God puts in my hands for him by this sunshine and rain. If I see this brother-enemy (that is the viewpoint of the text) suffer hunger and

God has put many things in my hands by means of His sunshine and rain, than I must not withhold these very gifts from this brother but as a faithful steward I must give these to this brother in love. I may not stand in the sunlight so that its rays cannot fall upon him, and that the cheering rain does not become his portion—for whom they were meant!

Yes, it is the last iota and tittle. Let our love be perfect toward the brother whom we see. Then shall all fear and tensions be out of our lives. Then we shall be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, and under Him we shall seek the perfection of our neighbor.