There have been times when someone has said to me that they don’t have much time for Church. I have usually replied by saying, There are a lot of things about Church that I don’t have much time for either but there’s stilll more than enough that I do agree with and am prepared to invest my life into. We are part of a Church that so often didn’t teach what Christ taught and on many ocasions got what he was saying completely wrong. The parable of today is just one such example. A man sows good seed in his field and when his back is turned his enemy sows weeds. Later he looks with horror to find both weeds and wheat growing together. His servants suggest that they go in and pull out the weeds but the master in his wisdom forbids then saying, ‘Allow then both to grow together until the harvest then the good can be separated from the bad.’ Why did he give that advice? There are a few reasons that come to mind:
First the presence of the weeds growing alongside the wheat creates a more challenging environment for the wheat to grow. Precisely because of the darnel the wheat will be forced to grow taller. If we apply that to our lives it helps us to accepts people and circumstances as they are and not as we would like them to be. In other words imperfection is part and parcel of life at every level; there always will be weeds. We will never have the perfect community or the perfect family or the perfect job or the perfect partner, or perfect leaders and neither will the church ever be perfect. The challenge is to accept the imperfection that is part of life and rise above it.
Its just all too easy to fall into a negative and judgmental mode where every sentence we make is laced with a complaint or judgment against something or someone and in the end the only one we are hurting is ourselves. There are even serial complainers who may well be the last in the world to recognize their problem. Like the man and woman on a cruise ship and theywere invited to dine at the Captains table. During the meal she turned to her husband and said. Isnt this utterly ridiculous, we pay a fortune for this cruise and here we are having to dine with the crew! In the acceptance of what is we find peace whereas peace eluded those who are always complaining.
Don Helder Camera put the teaching of that parable very succintly when he said, ’Don’t seek perfection in anything or anyone, rather seek to perfect your love’. Another part of Buddist teaching is that things are are they are and it is only in accepting them as they are that they begin to change. Its so refreshing to meet someone with a positive optimistic outlook, who looks at reality through the eyes of acceptance and love. You go away feeling refreshed and energised. On the other hand when you meet someone who is a moan a minute we end up feeling drianed and wanting to get away.
Going back to the Gospel another reason for the master wanting the wheat to grow alongside the weeds is a very obvious one. When the two begin to grow how is it possible to clearly identify one from the other and more importantly how are are you going to eradicate one without damaging the other. Can you imagine how much wheat you would trample on as you looked for the weeds. This is where Church teaching that was so prevalent in the past would now be recognised as being so wrong and even destructive.
It was teaching that encouraged self-discipline and bodily mortification as the way to becoming holy. When something immoral raised its head like a negative emotion, a wayward thought or a sexual urge you were expected to deal with it harshly and employ moral surgery on yourself in order to eliminate it.
Unfortunately that was the thinking of the time. The shadow side of human nature was bad news and needed to be treated as an enemy, beaten into submission or destroyed altogether. In other words eliminate the weeds. History has shown that it just didn’t work. The litany of child abuse that reared its ugly head in the Church is a prime example of how the sexual repression that was part and parcel of clergy training became so destructive. These were men who at 20 years of age were told that if you had sexual feelings they were sinful and if you saw a female walking towards you on the street you should go to the other side to avoid temptation! How sick was that kind of teaching and what an insult to women and to the God who became human. When we try to block a river its bound to overflow and affect the surrounding plains. To deny any part of our humanity or sexuality is asking for trouble and in our church the chickens of denial and repression just came home to roost. The scandals we heard about were not just individual failures but the failure of a system that was not doing justice to the central tenet of its faith; the Incarnation
The tragedy is that so many good sincere people went down that road of self-denial and repression that only led to suffering and alienation. It was never the gospel road in the first place, no matter how much it appeared to be. Jesus always preached, love the enemy whether within or without. In the parable remember he didn’t allow the servants to pull up the weeds, much as they wanted to do. The more we try to disown our negative qualities the more they will continue to control us even to the point when they can ultimately destroy us.
The Christian life is not about weeding or using the scissors treatment on anything that we discover about ourselves no matter how unacceptable it may appear. Rather it is about accepting it for what it is and owning it as ours rather than projecting it onto someone else. Without the weeds our lives might be easier but would they be more fruitful and might they not be a lot less interesting as well.