July 20

Cops and Robbers

Last week we talked about the need for nurturing seeds to recognize fruitful harvests. Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation, but if we want to see our faith lives mature, we have to spend time and energy nurturing that faith and relationship beyond simple church attendance. It’s kind of like exercise…though it isn’t going to prevent you from dying someday, it will enhance your life.

In Matthew, the Parable of the Sower is followed by the Parable of Weeds among the Wheat. Jesus begins the parable by saying, ”The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”

Did you notice where the weeds have been sown? “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” So within the kingdom of heaven, an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. Those first 8 words are easy to miss. We are already living in the kingdom. Jesus ushered the kingdom into the world with his birth to Mary and Joseph. And while we are already in the kingdom, we are not yet fully realizing the kingdom until we come face to face with our Savior.

Now back to the weeds and the wheat. The wording can easily be read to judge certain people as the wheat and others as the weeds. Boundaries might seem clear-cut, black and white. I doubt that many of us would confess to being the weeds of the world. If pressed, most of us would probably reason that we have lived good enough lives to be categorized as the wheat within this parable. But life isn’t black and white. Boundaries are not so easily recognized. And Jesus makes that clear as he explains that the field workers are told not to pull the weeds, because they would take some of the wheat with them. Leave the weeds until harvest.

On Tuesday I experienced the 24-hour flu bug that has been going around. Achy and tired, I spent the day on the couch and in between naps I watched a movie from the early 90’s. “Fugitive” starred Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. Ford was a surgeon who had been convicted of murdering his wife. Jones was the lead FBI agent on the case.

The movie began with Harrison Ford’s character being put onto a bus with other convicted criminals, handcuffed and chained at the ankles, heading to a secured prison. He is obviously the bad guy. The bus ends up in an accident where Ford escapes and goes on the run. Tommy Lee Jones character is quickly on Ford’s trail, and is always just out of his reach. It was during one of their face-to-face confrontations that we learn Ford has been proclaiming his innocence since the beginning. But Jones doesn’t care and even in close encounters, Ford always elusively escapes.

As the movie continues, not only is Ford on the run, but he is seeking his wife’s killer. And when he finds important clues or info, he gets that info to his own pursuer, Jones. The FBI agent eventually noticed that Ford’s clues are pointing to one of the local cops, who was hired to kill Ford and his wife, for potentially exposing a pharmaceutical cover-up regarding the effectiveness of a drug used in the operations that Ford was involved in.

In the end, the good guys (assumed to be cops) and the bad guy (assumed to be Ford) are in reversed roles. The hunt for Ford created public fear and judgment against a man who was innocent but framed by the presumed good guys. Jones finally recognizes that the men he has been trusting during the investigation have actually been part of the cover-up. The ‘good guys’ were actually the ‘bad guys’, and Ford ‘the bad guy’ was actually the ‘good guy’. So Jones brings down the corrupted police and sets Ford free.

I don’t think there are individuals that are completely wheat and others that are completely weeds. That leads to an arrogant perception that there are some who are worthy of Christ and others that are not. I am reminded of the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, where the Pharisee in all of his righteousness goes into the temple and declares how good he is; praying daily, tithing, respecting traditions, attending worship. He certainly sees himself as the wheat while pointing at the weed (the tax collector) and stating, thank God I’m not THAT man! The tax-collector on the other hand, goes into the temple and prays “forgive me, O God, for I am a sinner”. And Jesus declared that only the tax-collector went home justified.

It seems to me that each of us are both a cop and a robber; wheat and weeds. We are all born as sinful weeds and by the grace of God in Christ through baptism, are seeds of wheat sown. It is his love and forgiveness that the weeds are removed from within us. And in the process of nurturing the seeds of our faith, seeking God’s will for our lives within scripture, prayer, outreach of love, etc., we are refined and gleaned as sinful weeds are filtered from our lives. Then in the harvest, whether by death or Jesus’ coming, we are lifted up out of the weeds of sin, refined and shining in the presence of God.