… but it depends on us keeping our house in order

Wheat and weeds growing together near Tillington, NW Herefordshire.     Image credit: Ian Greig

Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 and 1 Corinthians 5:6-13

Among casual readers of the Bible, there has been a long tradition of confusing the kingdom of God with the church.

This was especially common during the era of Christendom in Europe where the church and state powers were enmeshed, and it persists today where people assume the organisational structures of the church and the power wielded by church leaders is synonymous with God’s kingdom.

Unfortunately, this has led to a dangerous misreading of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds.

In the story, Jesus compares “the kingdom of heaven” to a man who sowed good seed in a field while his enemy secretly sowed weeds. In order to protect the wheat from being uprooted prematurely, the weeds are allowed to grow alongside the wheat until the harvest.

Those who equate the kingdom with the church have understood this parable to mean that wicked, harmful people should be tolerated within the church alongside those seeking righteousness. In other words, it is not appropriate to exercise church discipline or expel anyone for any reason. Such actions, they say, are reserved for God alone at the final judgment.

This view, however, is a complete misreading of Jesus’ parable and requires one to ignore many other passages within the New Testament - and the words of Jesus himself - that call upon church leaders to exercise discernment and discipline in order to protect the church from harm and guide everyone toward godliness. In its worst application, this read of the parable has been an excuse for not removing corrupt or abusive church leaders.

The story of the wheat and the weeds is not about the church. It is about the world. We occupy an age in which the kingdom of God and its righteousness has taken root. It is growing and expanding. But its presence is not without resistance. Alongside God’s kingdom is also the evil of the world. Until the harvest, we must expect the goodness of God’s kingdom and the evil of the world to coexist in tension with each other.

But the fact that evil persists in the world is never an excuse for the church to ignore it within its own community or to silence those who have been wounded by its agents.

Original post by Skye Jethani in ‘With God Daily’, July 9

See also Understanding Revival page with the wheat and weeds passage of Matthew 13, in The Living Word

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