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

It took until almost the end of the month, but as I gaze out my window in between tasks, I’m finally seeing one of those famed April Showers. It’s a gentle, soaking rain which will penetrate deep into the ground and help things grow. In our yard, that means good news for the garden. It also means good news for the grass, the weeds, and those thorn plants which keep multiplying no matter how ruthlessly we cut them back. The environment which produces beautiful may flowers creates ideal growing conditions for the pests as well.

And it’s good.

It’s good, because the fact that the soil is able to give life to weeds must also be fertile enough to produce useful plants, if only someone will give it the care and attention it needs.

Jesus liked to use the metaphor of soil to describe humans, and I think that’s what he’s doing here. “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you… [God] sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Just as all the soil receives the same rain regardless of what it is producing, so all people receive the same ‘rain’ from God. Everyone has the potential to be good soil, if they are properly cared for.

As is almost always the case with Jesus’ teaching, we should keep in mind that the call to love our enemies is a collective one, and is not an invitation to put ourselves in harm’s way. “Love your enemies” does not mean risk your safety trying to connect with those who bully or abuse you. “Love your enemies” does not mean you, as an individual, are responsible for another’s actions. Instead, this is a call to the whole community of faith, to foster environments so loving that all who enter them will eventually begin producing good fruit.

The rain falls on gardens and on brambles. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. In either case, the rain won’t change much. But the tender care of a community will change everything.