“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” (Matt. 5:45). Note the words, “so that” (hopos), indicating purpose. The purpose of loving your enemies is not to become a child of God, but to show yourself to be a child of God.
Jesus is talking to believers—those who are already children of God (Matt. 5:16). They are already children of God by their faith in Christ. Thus, the basis for loving your enemies is your relationship with God. You love your enemies because you are a child of God. You love your enemies in order not to show your character, but to show the character of God.
What is this character of the Father? The character of God the Father is that He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. In other words, the character of God is that He blesses the good and the evil people of this world. He is a God of grace; a gracious God. This is called common grace. He gives grace to good people and bad people. That is the character of the Father.
One day, God called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh is in modern day Iraq. Nineveh was a sinful city, ungodly, Gentile, non-Jewish, and pagan. But God called Jonah to preach there.
Jonah said, “No way. They might repent and God might not judge them and destroy them.” So he got on a boat going to Tarshish. Tarshish is thought to be in modern-day Spain, a city that is in the opposite direction to Nineveh. It’s like you’re in Cebu, and God calls you to preach in Manila, but you go down to Davao. Jonah tried to get as far away from God’s will.
You know the story. God pursued Jonah. The boat crew threw Jonah overboard. A big fish swallowed him. It spew him out later. Jonah then went to preach in Nineveh.
One thing stands out. God pursued Jonah because He pursued people who did not want Him. That’s the character of God. It’s called grace. He pursues people who don’t deserve His mercy. God is gracious, not just to you, but to people who hate Him. That is why Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations, and not just our city and country.
Now this is a good lesson about prayer. Sometimes, we ask God only for our good. We should also pray for the good of others who disobey God. God is not only good to people who love Him. God is also good to people who don’t love Him. Thus, we should not only love and pray for people who love God. We should also love and pray for people who hate God.