Patience with the World, the Church and Yourself (continued)

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The seed sprouted and the plants grew. Eventually the helping hands saw weeds among the wheat. Somewhat mystified, they asked the farmer where the weeds had come from and, more importantly, whether they should pull them out. The farmer knew an enemy had tried to destroy his crop but unperturbed, tells his labourers to let the weeds grow. They would wait until harvest and sort it out then.

Once Jesus had dismissed the crowds, the disciples asked him to explain the parable. His replied, the sower of the good seed is the Son of Man (himself), the good seed is people of the Kingdom and the field is the world (note, not the church). The weeds are the people of the evil one sown by the devil, the harvest is the end of the age and the harvesters are angels. There is a day, Jesus explains, when good and evil will finally be separated. And the good will be awesome.

Like most of Jesus’ parables this one give us insights into how God’s Kingdom works. Not only in the world but how it is taking place in and through the ministry of Jesus.

In sharp contrast to an earlier parable, the good seed survives the influx of weeds. The weeds do not choke or destroy the good seed but grows unhindered without danger. Nevertheless, there is mischief. An enemy out to destroy the crop. The point is that although there is evil in the world, it was not introduced by God and God does not condone it. It has its source elsewhere.

Good growing conditions
Good seed and bad seed together
The point is that God does not send evil or want evil in the world, it has its source elsewhere.

Also, as every gardener knows, once in the soil, weeds grow equally well as the good seed. Normally one pulls out the weeds as quickly as possible, but not in this story. The farmer, God, is aware of the weeds (evil), however, the response is to allow them to grow beside the good seed (Kingdom) and wait until harvest (judgment). The point is that God is patient with the evil in the world and allows the Kingdom and evil to grow side-by-side at the same time.

Although there is evil in the world, from God’s point of view there is no need to panic, to despair or to fear. Everything is in hand. Despite appearances, God is neither impotent to stop evil nor negligent in allowing it to flourish. It’s just that there is a bigger strategy and God is in no hurry.

Jesus says elsewhere that God causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous, just as the farmer in this parable the farmer waters his field and both the wheat and weeds benefit. Similarly, good and bad are thrive equally in or world. Even the rich, the greedy, the criminal and the exploiter can be happy and enjoy the grace and blessing of the Creator.

a world of weeds

That’s a difficult truth to accept. But any honest appraisal of the world will agree. Despite the world’s best desires and actions, evil, pain, sorrow and suffering continue to flourish.

That is not to say we should not work to make the world a better place. We should and we must. It is just that we need to hold on in faith when evil continues to thwart, interrupt, discolour and pollute our attempts to improve the world. We too need to be patient with the world.

The parable helps us live faithfully in that moment. God has a long-term patient plan. We are not surprised evil continues to raise its head. And though tempted by disappointment and disillusionment to despair and bitterness, we nevertheless live fearlessly in the face of evil. We wait patiently, trusting God’s purposes will be done in God’s timing.

my own heart

This is no easy task. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” Not only are we confronted with good and evil in the world, we are confronted with the good and the evil that exists even in our own hearts.

When I honestly and humbly face myself, I am aware this is true. And if it is true, then Jesus’ parable speaks not only about the world but into my life also. God is equally aware of the weeds/evil in my heart yet shows the same patience that is given the world. Oh, the riches of God’s grace to me. Despite my mixed life, God is patient and promises to clean it all up one day. In the meantime, I am called to patience, not only with the world and with myself. This is perhaps the most difficult act of patience of all.

Patience with the churcH

God asks more of me. To rephrase Solzhenitsyn, “The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of the church.” The church is mixed just like the world. And just like you and me it is full of good and evil. Not surprisingly, I can be hurt and disillusioned with the church.

Jesus often clashed with the religious leaders of his day. The main source of that clash was their ‘holier than thou’ attitude. They thought evil existed out there, away from them. “We are ‘pure’ and they are ‘sinners.’ We are the true followers of God they are outsiders.” But Jesus cut right through their hypocrisy calling them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:37), a veneer of cleanliness on the outside but death on the inside. Evil ran through the middle of their hearts.

It is so easy for the church to fall into the same trap. Those in the church believe they are the pure ones and those who don’t go to church are the impure. No wonder many leave the church when confronted with such hypocrisy.

who is the hypocrite?

But who is the hypocrite? Many leave the church with an attitude of disdain. They feel holier, purer, and superior to those they left in the church. But wait! Aren’t they falling into the same trap? Haven’t they just created a new “us and them” divide and placed themselves on the “pure” side?

This parable is a challenge for any person who thinks they are better than others. It teaches that every field, whether it be the world, a nation, a church, or one’s own heart, has good and bad within it.

And what is more, God is the only one who can separate one from the other. That’s not our job it is for another time. Until them, we must all wait.

This is the way the Kingdom works in the world. There is no hurry, no need to rush to judgement, no need to judge quickly. Not even myself. Patience, as they say, is a virtue, and God agrees!

Stephen L Baxter

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