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The Wheat and the Weeds
21 June 2020, 4:30 PM
A Reflection by Eric Dodd from Kaurihohore/Kamo Cooperating Parish
Pentecost 7 Matthew 13: 28b-30
The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you pulling the weeds, you may root up 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.’
The weed which was growing in the field was Darnel a poisonous weed often found in wheat fields. In the early stages of growth, it was difficult to distinguish from the young corn and when its head developed, the roots were so intertwined that it could not be pulled up without spoiling the crop. Farmers therefore left it until harvest when the weeds could be separated and burned as fuel, and the wheat collected and stored.
Human relationships are like wheat and weeds scattered through a field – it is very difficult to characterise people and it is easy to generalise when their roots are intertwined in all sorts of ways. As Christ’s servants we must be careful not to be too hasty in sorting people into good and evil or condemning non-Christians for that matter. We must not judge others concerning their cultural differences, physical characteristics, religious persuasion or personal behaviour, for often it is not always easy to distinguish between those who behave with kindness and consideration for others, and those who do not. We cannot even assume that only good people belong to the Christian Church. The World Charter for Compassion states that to act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others – even our enemies – is a denial of our common humanity.
George Floyd’s death in America has shocked people all over the world and the subsequent protest movements, riots, arson and looting on top of the death of many thousands of US citizens (expected to top 200,000 by September this year) due to Covid-19, has called into question American leadership, police brutality, criminality, exploitation and poverty. The world has watched with bewilderment, astonishment and horror, as America descended into mass deaths, chaos, fire, and lunacy, and yet, it is so easy to generalise and point the finger at this compilation of disturbing events, condemning America as a dysfunctional society, a dystopian abyss, where systemic racial inequality and social injustice prevail. However, in America today, not all politicians are consumed by avarice and self-interest; not all police are biased against black people; not all protesters are looters, arsonists and vandals. Interlocked within this diverse society there exists those having a strange humble sense of fellowship, of equality, of freedom, of grace and gentleness. Neither is this eclectic mix of humanity necessarily confined to America and we should not be complacent in thinking that people of both colour and race are not discriminated against in other countries including our own. Consequently, around the world, thousands of people have been marching in their own cities, holding banners declaring that ‘Black lives matter’. These supporting protesters therefore are not just sympathetic to the proclamations of those law abiding protesters in America but are mindful that concomitant with their beliefs that abhor a western culture in which racial discrimination is ostensibly prevalent, they are protesting against a dehumanising racist characteristic that is also endemic in their own country. Their activist indignation has sometimes spilled over into seeking their way of retroactive retribution from those historic colonial leaders perceived to have been guilty of racial oppression, and monuments and statues and the like have borne the brunt of protester
Wokism*. Jesus would not wish to have people who serve practical Christianity, being separated from the world, but in it with him in all its good and evil. Those people can however share his fight against evil and hate, confident that his way of love will win in the end.
When we hear of these terrible events happening in the world today, the age old debating question is often posed. “Are things getting better or worse?” The situation in America and by association, in the world, might make us shake our heads and long for ‘The Good Old Days’. However, what we can speculate on is that both goodness and badness are heading for a climax, i.e. a harvest. So, this is where the gospel comes in and we must begin to work and rely on God’s promise that he will victoriously conclude what he has begun in Jesus. In the mean-time we should look expectantly for signs of the Spirit in all kinds of places and resist making premature judgments. Above all, we should avoid being thought of as being reactionary by prematurely pulling up the symbolic intertwined weeds. For by the grace of God, divisive people who today are exercising an evil influence within society may in tomorrow’s reckoning become selectively discarded and be superseded by those with a completely changed character bearing a fruitful harvest of an altogether different kind, devoid of malice and greed. Does this explain why Jesus was so patient where Judas was concerned? What would have happened had he rooted him out of the band of apostles at the first sign of disaffection? Would he have so disturbed the rest of the twelve that the team would have started to disintegrate?
The measure of a community’s distance from God should be seen in the measure of its inability to look at the wider picture and its failure to adopt a more conciliatory approach. To demonstrate the love of mercy is not procrastination but an attempt to avoid social injustice that only serves to generate embittered feelings. Jesus practiced a gentle approach and a gentle society is a society that has a greater degree of harmony, peace and mutual respect. Consequently, the punitive ‘knee jerk’ reaction to solving a problem is eliminated and there is less of a harbouring of resentment and hardness of attitude that often is the precursor to civil disturbance.
*woke - alert to injustice in society, especially racism.
Edits to this post:
- David Bell - 21 June 2020, 6:27 PM