God’s Attitude to the World

God rains on the just and the unjust. Learning from God's attitude to the world?

There’s an old song called, “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.” This expression has gone into the often used expressions of our culture to mean “troubles happen to us all.” That association between rain and bad experiences doesn’t make sense here in Western Australia where every drop of rain is precious. That’s because we live in a Mediterranean climate, in which our rain all falls in a short season. Farmers need that rain for successful crops, and we all need rain for our drinking water. It was the same in the Judea, 2000 years ago when Jesus said these words:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45

What Jesus is saying is that when God rains on the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the bad, the believer and the unbeliever, He is giving blessings to all the world. This is not about punishment. God is generous, kind and good. God gives “average rainfall”: not all in one season. With the Lord, rain is consistent and it’s for everyone.

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

This is talking about how God deals with the world in an even-handed way. He is not punishing sinners and elevating the righteous. The world as a whole is at this time in a suspended state. Christians and non-Christians alike suffer troubles, and both have good times too.

A Time for Judgment

Jesus again explained this when he talked about the fact that he didn’t come to the earth to judge, but to save. There will be a time for judgment, but that time is not now:

I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, John 12:47-48

It’s important to understand God’s attitude to the world. Let’s look at the word “world,” for a start. The world refers to two things, the physical creation (the universe, the earth, our nation, our city). It also refers to human life untouched by God (cultures, societies, communities, families). Both of these aspects, the whole world, are ruled now by the evil one, we’re told in 2 Corinthians 4:4. God created the universe and everything in it, but the Bible talks about “the World” in a way that identifies the creation as now existing separate from God.

Back to the Beginning

In Genesis 3:23-24 we learn this separation began when the first humans, Adam and Eve, chose to follow their own will instead of trusting and obeying God. They had to be driven out of paradise into the World, where they would have to face great problems and difficulties just trying to survive. We know that from the first sin people were evil, and this state only got worse!  In Genesis 6:5-8 we read that God regretted creating people because they were so corrupt they were not worth saving. Only one person, Noah, found favour in God’s sight. After that God sent a flood to cleanse the earth of evil, to start again with one small group of people.

The flood was a turning point for the world. We read in Genesis 8:21-22 that after Noah and his family came out of the ark and made sacrifices, God made a decision. He would never again destroy all people, or flood the earth. This was the beginning of thousands of years of preparations for when God himself would come to earth as Jesus Christ, and bring hope and redemption.

Where Do We Belong?

We are to have the mind of Christ, and that means we need to have the same “average rainfall” approach to the world that God has. Have a look at this reading from John 17:

But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (v. 13-16)

Jesus said he didn’t belong to the world, and neither do we. We live here, but we are not citizens of the earth. Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. In the following parable, Jesus explained clearly about God’s attitude:

Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard.He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “Mark 12:1-6

Here we see that God the Father is an “absentee landlord” who allows his tenant farmers (the world) to handle his land however they wish. He has turned over control, and he doesn’t interfere. He only sends back his servants to collect the produce of the land. This, in spiritual terms, means the harvest of his creation: the worship of the people he has made. The world has rejected every teacher and prophet sent by God and continued on its way. Finally, God sends his Son – Jesus Christ – to fulfil God’s purposes for the redemption of his creation.

For that plan to work, Jesus had to be “destined from the foundation of the world,” to die for our sins:

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.1 Peter 1:17-21

As Christians, we are servants and teachers sent to represent the right of God to be worshipped. Our spiritual job is not to farm and tend the land (though of course some will do that as their physical work.) We are not “stewards of the creation.” We are meant to be setting our faith and hope on God. Since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, the creation is separated from God. Our role is to represent God.

So often as Christians we can become tied up in the concerns of the earth, and human life. We might be motivated by the desire to help others, to ease suffering, to “make the world a better place.” It cannot be made a better place until it is completely submitted to the righteous rule of Jesus Christ. Until that happens our role is to be in the world, but to be concerned with the concerns of the Kingdom of God. That means we will be compassionate and loving, but leaving the outcome in God’s hands. He will be our focus, not stressing about whether the water reservoirs will be full at the end of the rainy season.

“Of the World”

It’s not just about worries and concerns of daily life. Any time we elevate aspects of this life we are straying from our objective, we become “of the world”. Even our interest in good things of the earth, our past times and hobbies can take us away from God if we elevate them above their proper level of importance. For example, we might really enjoy the produce of local farms, or feel it’s important to “buy local.” There are so many things that, on the face of it might seem worthy causes or positive aspects of human life. But if we make our spare time and thoughts focused on campaigning for things that are temporary, we are straying. All things of this earth are temporary, and, as it says in Romans 8, the creation has been groaning as though in the pangs of childbirth, awaiting the time of redemption, since the Fall of Man.

What a blessing for us as Christians to know that Jesus Christ is the rightful ruler of this world! He will return, but when he does will he find faithful Christians who are focused on His Kingdom? Let’s make sure we are right with God in this, that we are “in the world but not of the world.” If we have the right attitude we will be able to be even-handed as God is, giving “average rainfall” so people will see that, like God, we are impartial, raining on the just and the unjust.