LENT—Day 30: “No Weed Allowed” [2011APR08]
I’ve done some more thinking, reading, and study on these passages. What caught my attention in the first place was the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (weeds). I think one of the reasons that it caught my “ear” is how I have been taught its interpretation through the years. I cannot specifically recall a particular teaching, but it seems the primary understanding of this parable (for me) has been one mostly relegated to the church. In this interpretation, the principal players (the Wheat and the Weeds) coexist in the church (the field). There is a long history for this explanation even dating back to the early church; Hippolytus (said to be a disciple of Polycarp or Ireneus) stated that Callistus (accused of some highly suspect actions) justified lax attitudes toward people indulging in sin by perpetuating this particular view of the parable. It seems to have long legs… this interpretation prevailing in the church even today. The thing I have found in some of my studies is this view is not accepted as the most realistic of the explanations. While ancient, traditional, and modern critical approaches to the parable see it as a call to patience or warning against judgment for the church, this analysis is not congruent with teaching from Jesus and the disciples elsewhere in the Gospels and/or the New Testament Epistles. To begin with understanding the parable (Matthew 13:24-30) it is helpful to hear Jesus’ explanation (Matthew 13:36-43). In his explanation, Jesus clearly defines the players in the parable as follows: The field is the world; the good seed is the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one; the harvest is the end of the age; the reapers are angels… there is more, but these details are sufficient to purpose my thoughts.
“Therefore, O faithful Christian, search for truth, hear truth, learn truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, and defend the truth till death.” –Jan Hus
My original hesitation over this parable was concern over questions of the field and the harvest. This concern was driven by passivity in the church with regard to lax behavior toward sin and excessive tolerance toward spiritual immaturity. Essentially, my concerns echoed those of Hippolytus. I was not sure how my reservations metered with the details of the parable, but can see clear distinctions between Jesus’ explanation and errant interpretation. The field is not the church; the field is the world. The big picture of the parable is that the righteous and sinners will coexist in the world (NOT the Church) even when the kingdom is present, but not yet come in the full. When the end of all things does come, Jesus says; “…at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 13:40-43).
I was curious about specific details in these portions of text with regard to “harvest” and “workers” or “harvesters.” As we noted in the Matthew 13 passage, Jesus explained the harvesters would come at the end time and they would be his angels. In the other passages, it seems Jesus makes a distinction that in the current age his disciples are the harvesters and the time of the harvest is in the now. This is very different than what is portrayed in the Matthew 13 parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. The question remains then, what does it mean to us?
First, I feel less confused after my study of the Wheat and Weeds parable. While I have always been uncomfortable with the interpretation of Wheat and Weeds growing alongside one another in the church, I am convinced my discomfort was validated by what I have learned. Wheat and Weeds are not supposed to grow together in Jesus’ Church…because the church is not the field; the world is the field. Such as this being the case, there are no weeds allowed. Now, before my statement is misinterpreted, let me qualify and clarify what I mean. The church (ekklesia; assembly or those who are called out) is a group of people who have been called out and set apart by God for his glory. We know Scripture teaches that it is God’s desire that we be fully conformed to his image. Scripture also teaches that God desires we live holy, pure, and sin free lives…with God providing us the means and the power through himself for us to achieve this lifestyle. In the midst of this calling and provision, humans being humans, may fall short and this is where God’s grace and mercy abound. We continue to be forgiven through the atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus…in our weakness and failure he is strong and always the victor. What this means is that we strive with help from God’s grace and empowering Holy Spirit to grow to full stature of Christ’s image with full desire to live sin-free lives, but passivity and tolerance (aka compromise) to sin is not an option. Coexisting with sin is not what Jesus died for; Christ died to set the children of God free from the bondage of sin. No Weeds allowed.
Second, I believe the importance of Jesus’ disciples as harvesters is handed off to us, the current living church. The fields are still the world, but we have a mandate to act as the criers for the current generation. We are given the mission to “call out” those who have ears to hear and share the Good News that all who will be are set free from sin and death. People do not have to live in or with the weeds anymore. Just like Jesus, our nourishment is to do the will of God and the will of God is to seek and to save the lost…those who would have ears to hear.
Finally, our mission as I can best understand it is to teach the truth in love with much grace, mercy, forgiveness, and understanding. In doing this we are also uncompromising with regard to sin… We help people to be delivered from the bonds of sin without judgment and/or condemnation; this is the way Jesus confronted sin. Our work is to redeem what sin has captured, reconcile what sin led into exile, and restore those things that sin diseased and destroyed. Accomplishing this mission cannot be done sitting passively on the sidelines, it is an active mission and an active imperative given to us by Jesus himself. To God be the glory. Amen.
Almighty God, who has promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in your Son’s Name: I beseech you mercifully to incline your ear to me who have made my prayers and supplications to you; and grant that those things which I have faithfully asked according to your will, I may effectually obtain, to the relief of my necessity, and to the setting forth of your glory; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.