One of my favorite songs is one made famous by Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World.” Among other things, it speaks of trees of green, red roses, skies of blue, clouds of white, the bright blessed day, and the dark sacred night. Although the song does not credit God outright for these blessings, it magnifies what theologians call “common grace” – the grace that God bestows on every man woman and child in this world whether just or unjust (Matthew 5:45). It is the grace that supplies beauty, pleasure, and life to every person on earth whether they love God, hate Him, or even deny that He exists.
We hear of this same grace in the hymn (another favorite), “This is My Father’s World,” written toward the end of the 19th century by Maltbie Davenport Babcock – a minister from Lockport, New York. Living close to the beauty of Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario, he would often take walks with his wife to “go out and see the Father’s world.” Like the song made famous by Mr. Armstrong, it talks about rocks and trees, skies and seas, the songs of birds, and the morning’s light. He declares that all of what some call “nature” is really “Creation” and it spoke to him everywhere of God’s power, wisdom, and mercy.
Unlike “What a Wonderful World,” this hymn, so bright with the beauties of God’s creation, ends with an acknowledgment of the darkness that can dim the glory of its message in our lives:
This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!
This verse has struck a chord in my heart over the past four months. As I see the evils of recent movements that seek to erase the influence of God’s laws from our society increasing in strength, I have wondered if there is any hope for those of us who seek to stand with what is just and true.
The good news is that there is hope! The people who hold the economic and political power in our world are only there by God’s permission and for His purposes. Since this is true, we can rest on the fact that they will answer to Him about how they use or abuse that power.
Even so, this does not mean that we will escape the consequences of their bad decisions. We may, or may not, suffer from their oppression. Of one thing we can be sure, God intends to show them – through you and me – the same grace that He has shown to us.
In the first paragraph of this post I referenced Matthew 5:45. Let’s look, for a moment, at the context of that verse:
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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)
This does not mean that we should not defend ourselves or our families. It also does not mean that we should give up lawful political speech or action against laws and practices that are evil or unjust. We should still be praying against the things the “mob” are trying to foist upon us while, at the same time, praying for the well-being of that same “mob.” We should not return hatred for their animosity toward us. We should be looking for opportunities to do good for any of our relatives and acquaintances who “cancel” us or treat us wrongly. Although they speak evil of us and to us – we should speak kindly to them and about them – even while arguing against their agendas. Resting in the truth that this is “My Father’s World” frees us from fear or the desire for vengeance. Truly believing that God “is the ruler yet” enables us to treat our enemies with the same grace that God has shown to us.
There is a saying – “You may be the only Bible somebody reads.” Our Father has shown His grace to the world – the just and the unjust – through His creation. He commands us to do the same. God speaks to men through His wonderful world, but He wants to sing through you. Loving our enemies gives Him that chance.