Friday, November 3, 2017

Of Good and Bad Seed

Matthew 13:24ff is a brief and simple parable. It says that the Kingdom of God (i.e. the way that God is ruling) is like someone sowing seed in his field. While they slept at night the enemy snuck in and sowed bad seed. The servants are dismayed and surprised, "You sowed good seed so how did this happen?" they ask him. "The Enemy's hand is at work," he replies, but when they offer to pull up the bad he says they should wait for the Harvest Day because some good might be pulled up with it. The parable can be read as a straightforward allegory (13:39 includes just such an interpretation), however, the artistry of parables is that they reveal core truths and various interpretations can be generated by looking from different angles (e.g. the field is our soul, our community, the world. Seeds are people, seeds are teaching, seeds are 'holy or evil spirits').

The core revelation is that the Master (God) made a good creation. The surprising outcome (our mixed-bag of good and evil world) is not His doing or intent. Pause..... Reflect.....
Think of what Jesus did not say. He did not say "The Master sowed good and bad seed for his own purpose." Jesus did not say, "The Master sowed good seed, but as He was in control of everything, He allowed bad seed to be sown." Jesus did not say anything which implies that the mixed bag outcome was intended by God.

This is important because it underlies several vital theological insights.
1. God is the author of good and His intent for us is abundant life. If bad things happen (aside from punishment/wrath) it is likely that the Enemy (Sin, Death, the World, the Devil, the Flesh) has a hand in it. Life is more like a war (between God/good and the Enemy/evil) than it is a well ordered unfolding of the Divine Plan.
2. The ongoing evil in the world is "allowed" because the harvest time is not yet. Premature intervention could cause other problems (good taken with bad). God gave up His control for a higher purpose (freedom for creatures to embrace or reject His offer of Himself).

God does not send bad into our lives to make us strong or to get our attention. God blesses those who love Him. However, the world contains evil so bad things happen. When we stray, the wrath of God (probably best understood as the evil which befalls us when we leave the umbrella of His protection and/or He withdraws His nearness due to sin) is manifest. The prophets associate wrath with famine, drought, plagues and conquering armies; almost always natural events. However, God also punishes the conquering armies for "overdoing it" so clearly He intervenes without absolute control.

The purpose of Divine "punishment" is to call us back. Repentance and renewed relationship with the Abba Father is always the goal. Not to inflict pain, but to increase the joy of love together, not to inflict pain, but to sanctify us and make us holy... Pain, however, is redeemed by God. Pain might be used by God, but God does not torture and kill us to make us strong. When Jesus confronted sickness and suffering He healed. When He confronted sin He invited repentance and forgave those who came to Him. When He confronted the demonic He sent it away. He calms storms but never creates one. Notice a trend?

Genesis creation accounts echo in the parable. YHWH creates 'adam and eve (the Man and Mother) and hands the garden over to them. There are instructions, duties, limits and warnings. The serpent, a wise/wily creature, plants a seed of doubt. First Eve, then Adam, take the forbidden fruit because it looks good. God returns, He has been off somewhere, and cries out for the couple, who are hiding. "What have you done?" He asks.

Whose hand was at work in the Garden? The serpent, for sure, then Eve, and finally Adam, but it is not clear in the narrative what motivates ruining the whole thing for the sake of one piece of fruit. Later, Christian authors identify the snake with satan---the spiritual power behind the scene--which leads to the creation of the story of Lucifer's rebellion in heaven. However, Eve was open to some extent, because she fell pretty quick. What hand was already at work within her? Adam offers no resistance, so what about within him? The "surprised" YHWH of the story is hardly portrayed as the Divine Puppet Master guiding everyone to this predestined outcome. So things in the narrative as it is written seem a bit out of His control, perhaps even lots out of His control. He is involved though and responds to what has transpired.

What about the fact that God knows everything???
Setting aside that in the story He doesn't (He asks questions after all), let us consider, yet again, who the Biblical God is. He is the "incarnate" God (Jesus), the God who enters creation on its own terms. When He displays His amazing presence, it is thunder, lightening, fire and earthquake--all of them earthly, worldly phenomenon. When He meets people (in a garden--Adam and Eve, near a tent--Abraham, in a bush or mountain--Moses; in Jesus) it is in a here and now. Eternal God who is timeless and everywhere can now be located on a map and calendar. We can say, "Remember the time God was here and did this or said that?" When God enters time and space, He is squeezed into finitude--and the cross reminds us that such squeezing is self sacrificial love."

Creation is out of control, but He intervenes from time to time to save (help, heal and make holy). He interacts with us, more often with those who desire Him, and He finds a way to accomplish His goals in spite or our resistance. But be clear, such interventions are not final nor are they complete. The good and bad seed, after all, are left to grow together until the Harvest Day. Some day His Kingdom will come, but in the meantime there is a whole lot taking place which He did not want and does not like. That is why the final harvest is a judgment. He tosses out the ones who messed up His work. Hardly a book in the Bible doesn't have that as a major theme.

When bad things happen, repent if you have drifted from God. If that's not the cause, take solace in offering it to His love and care, but do not embrace the evil. Embrace the redeeming love. Call out for healing. Body, soul, spirit---it all needs healing and that is what salvation really is, healing, God's victory and rescue. Don't let the church people mislead you that God is the cause. He is dealing with the same messed up world you are. He wants to make you whole and holy. He wants to make you well. Believe it and trust Him. Get your mind emptied of teaching which implies God is someone whom you would not leave alone with your kids. Listen to Jesus, hear what He says.

All this evil seed, it is the hand of the enemy.
the enemy of God.
our enemy, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment