I always love this time of year because my strawberries are ripe for the harvesting. That may be an understatement, because we are swimming in strawberries. I love my garden and seeing it bloom, and bring forth delightful treats for my family. Although my wife and I are now enjoying the fruit of our labors from years ago, there is also the reality that we don’t make anything happen. Clearly there are things we do to help make our plants grow, such as tilling the soil or watering the plants. However, the actual growth of plants is truly outside of our control.
Contrary to our Post-Enlightenment schema which would try to establish impersonal laws to guide every particle in the universe, a Christian worldview holds that God is providentially guiding all things, even my strawberries. It is God who makes the sun rise to warm the earth. It is God who makes the rain fall to feed the plants.
Isn’t it interesting that the religion of a country does not dictate their aptitude in gardening? That’s an odd question, isn’t it! God does not make it to rain only on the farm of a Christian, while his non-Christian neighbor’s garden remains dry. God truly demonstrates His care for all of His creation in granting rain to saint and sinner alike. This is a demonstration of what theologians have called common grace.
Have you ever considered God’s generic, or common, grace to all humanity? This is not necessarily a question that many people raise. However, this concept is present in numerous places as we consider questions such as: “Does God love everyone?” or “Are all people God’s children?” What do you think about those questions?
The short version of a much longer answer is that yes, God does love everyone. But the more relevant question is HOW does God love everyone. This is where we see Scripture begin to be more specific. As the New Testament teaches, only those who come to faith in Jesus Christ through repentance and faith are saved from the penalty of their sins and the sin of Adam. In this, God demonstrates His redemptive grace.
God has loved us so much that He was willing to send His only Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty of sin on our behalf (cf. Matthew 1:21). But we also know that without such repentance and faith, a person will be required to pay the penalty of their own sin (cf. Acts 17:30-31). Does God still love those people who die in their sin? The Bible heartily responds: YES. God does love all people in a more general sense of love as mentioned. Common grace is the non-saving graces God gives to saints and sinners alike which are the common blessings of this world.
Where is this taught in the Scriptures? We turn to Christ’s most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. There in Matthew 5:45 we read, “[God the Father] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (KJV) By these words, the Lord Jesus is telling His listeners that God’s love for all people extends in amazing ways. He says that at every glance to the sun, we can be assured of God’s love. At every drop of rain, God demonstrates His care. But this love and goodness is not reserved for only those for whom Christ died (cf. Ephesians 1:4-5;5:25-27).
Why do you think God would extend such gifts to all people, even if He knew they would never come to faith in Christ? What benefit is common grace to the world at large? We return to Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:45-48. Within the context of loving your enemies, Jesus points out that this common grace and goodness is a means of demonstrating God’s love to those who do not deserve it.
Common grace is a reminder to the people of God that Christians are truly called to mimic their heavenly Father in loving everyone. It is the character of God the Father that is on display in these words by Jesus to be gracious even to those who do not deserve it.
The common grace of God is a daily reminder to us to extend that same grace to those around us, especially those who do not deserve it. As we see the sun rise over the neighbor’s house who is petty or the rain falling on the friend who has been bitter, it is a reminder of God’s grace to you and to them. Therefore, we have no room to be stingy with our grace.
As we are quick to thank God for the redemption He has given us in Christ to escape the penalty of sin, God’s common grace is a prompt to us to extend that grace to others who have done far less toward us than we have done toward God. God’s blessings to the world at large become a testimony to His glory as we are living demonstrations of His grace. May we help point people to Christ by means of the ordinary common blessings in our and their world that they might take hold of Christ and be made the recipients of His redeeming love.