Just and Unjust
"He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). That phrase from Jesus uttered during his Sermon on the Mount has been on my mind of late. I used to hear it a lot when I was growing up on the plains of Nebraska. The routine of our daily lives revolved around weather, and most of the time we seemed to be bouncing from one extreme to another. During particularly stressful moments, my Dad would opine at length on "why the heck didn't his Father who settled on our farm stop his travels westward a couple of hundred miles farther east where the rains are more dependable, the soil is deeper and richer, and the winds of January not quite so free to sweep across the land."
So it was natural for us to latch onto Biblical references to the weather. It was also a basic human instinct to latch onto this particular quote from Matthew as if to reassure ourselves that whatever the current spate of abnormally dry, or wet, or cold, or hot weather wasn't really our fault and that we hadn't been totally written off by the Heavenly Father. But then there was that other major weather event from the Bible to think about, that whole flood story from Genesis and the wrath of God. Then there were those sermons from the occasional televangelist who would proclaim via the airwaves that mankind had better straighten up or else! As a kid, it was perplexing at the very least, and in many ways I still find it a struggle to interpret the diversity of Christian messaging on the whole issue of "when bad things happen to good people."
With the recent historic floods in my home state, I'm sure that many a conversation amongst my relatives and former neighbors, and probably more than a few Sunday sermons evoked some mention or reference to Matthew 5:45. But there were also probably a few sermons, and probably not just a few conversations evoking the "we had better shape or else" theology.
My Dad didn't talk much about his interpretations on scripture, and even when I visited him for the last time in the hospital before he passed away from terminal pancreatic cancer, he didn't talk about it. So lately I've been trying to visualize what kind of a conversation we might have had if he were alive and still on the farm, a conversation that might have occurred after he came in from fighting knee deep mud to get feed to his cows, or had waded into a swollen creek to pull a baby calf to safety. After telling me where the worst mudholes were, and how deep the ruts had become, how he had almost buried a tractor in the creek, how he had never seen it this bad before, he might have concluded with a comment about his father's choices in where to set down roots on the trackless prairies.
I can only hope that for my part as I listened to my Dad, I would be thinking, Thank You Great Granddad, thank you for leaving loved ones in the old country to venture half way around the world to make a life in a new world, Thank YouGranddad, for scraping by and hanging on to your land through the depression and dust bowl years, and Thank You Dad for trudging through the snow drifts, wading through the mud, and for caring so much for those cows and calves, because in caring for those lowly beasts, you cared for me.
But I would probably have just said, "you know what they say Dad, He sends the rain on the just and the unjust," and Dad would have understood, because down deep, he knew what it meant to be a loving father.
May you have a Blessed Season of Lent,