Parables: The Wheat and the Tares

The parables of Jesus keep haunting me. I'm not sure why. For most of my life I never really spent much time thinking about the parables. The parables were never theological touchstones for me.

But increasingly they are, and I'd like to share a few parables in a series that I keep pondering and returning to.

To start, the parable of the wheat and the tares:
Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” 
For most of my adult life the public witness of Christianity has dismayed me. The brand "Christian" has been pretty damaged. So much so, many of us want to distance ourselves from being identified as Christian.

Problems with churches and denominations fill the news. Abuse scandals, large and small, abound. The horrible news accumulates and you just despair.

And then I think of the parable of the wheat and the tares. The kingdom of God on earth was never going to be a pure community or spotless witness. The Children of God and the Children of the Devil will be all mixed up together on earth. Jesus said so.

And yet, the moral response to that situation isn't to begin an inquisition, to start a violent weeding process. It's up to God to judge the weeds at the harvest. Our call is simply to be faithful in the midst of this ambiguous situation.

To be clear, I don't think Jesus is saying we should be passive in the face of evil in the pews. The point I believe Jesus is making is that the location of the Kingdom of God is going to be hard to identify this side of judgment, and that we're going to have to tolerate an ambiguous situation until then. Because I have a great desire to create a "pure space" right here and right now. I'm really drawn to the weeding business. And yet, I know I'd do great damage if I started that up. I try to act with wisdom and responsibility, trying to balance grace and justice. But I can't be trusted to get that right. So instead, I live with the ambiguity, with the mixed and confused moral witness of the church, with wheat and tares living side by side until the harvest.

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