Picture a handful of strong, determined and loyal men, both young and old who show up to the dusty fields before sunrise, while it is still dark, ready and willing to work. Their job is a long and tiresome one, often working from sun up to sun down. The heat and strain on their backs becomes too much by midday–each and every day– as they plant, nurture, and harvest wheat, but they don’t complain; they keep working “as if unto the Lord”. Years of engaging toilsome work publicizes itself for all to see in the deeply etched lines of their faces, which seemed stained with grit and grime. They wear these lines proudly for they speak of their character and the One for whom they work. They find purpose in their work and confidants in the men they labor shoulder to shoulder with day in and day out. They considered one another family.
Early one morning just as the sun had made its way over the horizon and the birds could be heard tweeting their melodies of glee, their Boss, a loyal, sacrificial man of insurmountable integrity Whom is well respected and highly esteemed in the community, meets them at the fields. This was part of His daily routine for He genuinely cared for His workers and always made Himself available. He balanced His position of Boss and Friend seamlessly and His workers respect Him for His hard, honest direction in both business and matters of the heart. This day, He heaves the bulky burlap bags of seeds from His rig, breaking a sweat Himself, as His men prepare to plant the acres of just fertilized and prepared fields. His men, have grown old with Him, learned the ropes by watching, and imitating both His methods and principals through their years under His care. They knew what needed to be done, so without a word, the Boss tips His hat, gives a quick nod and with a twinkle in His smiling eyes, He turns to leave. He trusts His workers. They have proven themselves reliable, valuable and desiring the best. They know the land and the job so well, they could have written the manual themselves!
Diligently, day after day, the workers sow the seeds and survey the land as they look for new growth and prepare for the harvest season. They work as if the field belongs to them, doing whatever it takes because they genuinely desire to grow a successful crop and to please their Boss. Weeks pass, when one day the workers notice that among the healthy, thriving wheat stalks, thistles have taken root. In their years of experience, they haven’t encountered such an enormous outbreak. The men look questioningly at one another and with each acre they assess, their growing concern quickly turns to panic. They sprint back to their Boss, breathlessly panting, “Weren’t the seeds You gave us to plant good? Were they not stored in the cool dark cellar and kept safe?” As they breathed the words to life, they knew the answer. They didn’t have to question their Boss’ methods, but they could not explain what else might have contributed to the heavily interspersed weeds among their prized wheat; the very thing that could destroy it.
Their Boss smiled ruefully, shaking His head, His eyes dropping to where He watched the dust float heavenward with each scuff of His boot along the dry ground. Slowly, His teary eyes met theirs and with such a tenderness in His voice, He whispered, “Boys, I knew this day was coming; a day when our competition would sneak in and plant weeds in My fields in hopes to choke out My healthy stalks”. The men, eager to do whatever needed to be done, replied with raised voices, “Well, we’ll show him, we’ll spend as long as it takes to pull up the weeds. We will restore Your plan. We will restore what is damaged and make it better than new”. Their Boss looks at them again, kindness in His eyes as He walks toward them and speaks once more, “No, my boys. Thank you for your willingness to act justly on My behalf. I appreciate the heart in which you mean to help, but something you might not have considered is if you were to pull up the weeds, you may accidently uproot the wheat as well. Let’s do this: let them be; let the weeds grow alongside the wheat until they reach maturity, until the time of harvest, and then you may pull the weeds and burn them”. The men, confused, questioned Him, “But Boss, are You not worried that the weeds will ruin the wheat? The weeds, the bad, the less desirable will surely weaken or destroy the wheat, the good, the desired–the very thing we have worked so hard to attain”. Their Boss let out a soft “hmmm”, dropped His head and slowly walked back to His quarters.
Can you imagine the talk that ensued once their Boss was out of ear shot?
Do you think they respected His orders, or do you think some of them felt they knew better and acted on their Boss’s behalf?
What do you think the end results would have been?
Who do we identify with in this parable?
(Obviously, I’ve taken some liberties in expanding the story found in Matthew 13:24-29 with the hope that we might picture it all the more clearly and identify with it on a more personal level).
To paint with more detailed brush stokes, this story represents non-Christians (weeds) living among Christians (wheat) and how those with good intentions often believe the best thing to do is to separate the two (us and them). The workers in this story identified with the wheat, as many of us, as Christ-followers, do. Their initial thought was to pull up the weeds, but Jen Hatmaker, in her insightful (and seriously life-changing) book, “Interrupted” points out that “we are qualified to administer mercy, not judgment”. Think about that for a moment. Let that fact sink in. Stings a little, doesn’t it? For many of us, we have looked at the world as black and white, good or bad, for God or against God. We play judge and jury.
Friends, we will encounter more than our fair share of weeds; people that make us uncomfortable because they think, behave, worship, vote, live differently, and/or have a different sexual orientation than we do. (think homeless guy on the corner, those living in poverty in this country as well as others, the lesbian couple in the booth at the restaurant you’re dining at, boisterous Liberal, Republican or Democrat with opposing views, pro-choice/pro-life rallies, alternative music, drinking, drugs…honestly, could I hit anymore hot buttons? You get the point). To be honest, I’ve always identified with the wheat, but as I’ve grown in both age and faith, I find that my heart longs to draw closer to the weeds. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to abandon my faith. On the contrary, I want to embrace what it has always been about, the part I have misunderstood, the part my legalistic background has declared bad and sinful and therefore, we must flee from. Jen Hatmaker makes a bold statement when she writes, “The correct character to identify with here is the weed which was shown mercy, not the Savior capable of discerning the human heart”. #convicted
To identify with the “least of these” or the “oppressed” or whatever we choose to label others outside ourselves is so counter-cultural, so uncomfortable, and if we’re honest, it come at a high cost; the cost of being ridiculed or misunderstood. I know this personally as fact! And we cannot make the outcome of whatever we put into motion with others hinge on whether or not it takes root on an eternal level. That’s not our job. Our job is to DO something. “Doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission” and we are held accountable for our actions/inactions. This does require a willing brokenness, a willingness to embrace certain frustration, and confess moments of judgment that seep in from time to time in addition to a fullness of joy we have never really experienced before. I believe becoming less in stuff and stature and living, for lack of a better phrase, (the overused and highly underlived word) on mission is where we find fulfillment, genuine liberty. I can’t help but to think of John 3:30, which echoes the constant prayer of my heart, “I must decrease, so that He may increase”.
What it all boils down to is this: it’s you and me, weeds and wheat, living together. Let’s really live intentionally together. It’s not our job to separate ourselves or even cast judgment on those different from us. That’s God’s job. Our job is to be purposeful, intentional in showing Christ’s love to all people. I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus implied, scratch that, commanded when He said, “Go” and “Do”. Faith is not meant to bless the blessed. It’s intended to bless the marginalized.