Jesus spoke about rain too. He didn't seem too bothered about getting wet. Rain didn't dampen his mood. In fact the one time he spoke about rain he spoke about sunshine in the same breath. What rain and sunshine have in common is that they are indiscriminate. If you're outside in rain you'll get wet just as surely as if you're outside in sun you'll feel the warmth and get your vitamin D replenished.
There are times when Jesus sees deeply into the surface of things. He sees and states the obvious and changes people's worldview. Which is the start of changing the wotrld. Well into the Sermon on the Mount, on the other side of the Beatitudes, he says "Love your enemies." We're used to reading that, yet his words are still unsettling, even upsetting. For those first hearers that imperative "Love your enemies" pulled the carpet from a way of life embedded in God's law. Not so much a reinterpretation, but a flat contradiction.
Don't hate, love. Don't curse, pray. Later, in one of the most explicit echoes of Jesus in all of Paul's letters, he will speak the same nonsense to the Christians in Rome. (Romans 12.14, 17-21) And it is nonsense, in the technical sense of not making sense. What makes sense to us is what we are used to, the familiar, those experiences we have come to understand, predict and which contribute to the stability and smooth running of our lives. We live by the values we've gotten used to. Then Jesus asks the impossible, give up what you're used to. The pragmatism of the everyday and ordinary, the familiar and the secure, our long established comfort zones, Jesus simply turned outside in, upside down, back to front. Or use any other phrase for radical reversal of expectations. And then, that scary way Jesus took the responsibility for a whole series of apparently irresponsible words, "You have heard that it was said....but I say to you..." These are amongst the most revolutionary words Jesus ever spoke within people's hearing, and they forced a reorientation of life for those who heard them.
"Love your enemy sounds" like a moral oxymoron from anyone other than Jesus. But why? What's the reason for such unrealistic commands? Loving your enemy seems like an act of emotional self-harm. Love your neighbour makes sense. Neighbourliness is built on all those instinctive and long established principles of human community like mutual protection, reciprocity of gift, collaboration and co-operative action, communal sharing, agreed values and upholding the common good? You could almost define "enemy" as someone who rubbished all these social bonds and refused, or worse subverted by deceit or suppressed by force the very things that make people neighbourly. Which brings us back to rain.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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.
Why? Why love my enemy? Jesus gives one of those answers that shows why his Kingdom is not of this world, not even close. "So that you may be children of your Father in heaven." To be a child of God is to bear the family resemblance; to behave in ways reminiscent of God's purposes; to align our way of being with God's way of being God. What's God's way of being God? "He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust." Indiscriminate rain argues indiscriminate love. Neighbour or enemy, friend or persecutor, if they're out in the rain they get wet; if they encounter a Christian they get loved. Neighbour or enemy, friend or persecutor, if they're out in the sun they get warmed, and if they meet a Christian they encounter love.
Simple. It's the logic of a Kingdom that makes no sense in the world of eye for eye and tooth for tooth. It's a logic that seems plain daft in communities founded on quid pro quo, competitive advantages, trading and trade-offs, and long memories for wrongs awaiting payback. The logic of enemy love is a theo-logic. It requires a way of being that is enabled by God's grace and energised by God's love. The love of God in Christ, reproduced in the followers of Jesus is enacted, embodied in the practices of love - peacemaking, reconciliation, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, self-giving service. In short, love for enemy is Christlike love for the other, any other.
This makes me wonder if another approach to rain, to add to the options in the cartoon above, might be called "The Nazarene". Perhaps a picture of two people standing in a downpour, one with empty hands and outstretched arms waiting to greet the person with clenched fists and the body language of hostility. And as the rain falls on the just and the unjust, that gesture of love, goodwill and conciliation may turn the enemy's world upside down, inside out and back to front, and the result a changed worldview. Loving the enemy is a Copernican revolution in a relationship by which enemy becomes friend, and the shadow of hate is dispelled by the sun shining on the just and the unjust.
And therefore, Christians should now and then walk in the rain, quietly praying those words of Jesus, while reviewing the list of those we dislike and who dislike us, those whose past offense is in danger of hardening into enmity, those for whom we have chosen not to care. Living in Scotland such opportunities come round regularly - it rains often. And if we go out we get wet; and if our enemy goes out they get wet too. So, if we should meet during a walk in the rain, seeking to be children of our Father who is in heaven, our love learns to be as indiscriminate, as persistent, as life laden with potential, as rain. Rain therefore, is a sacrament of that grace that pours into our lives in uncountable drops, soaking us with all that is needed for life, and life in all its abundance.