The Rev. David Sellery
In the old-time Westerns it didn’t take very much insight to tell the good guys from the bad guys, the white hats from the black hats. But real life is a lot more complicated and a lot less predictable. Great literature reflects that reality. Shakespeare’s bloodiest villains… Iago, Richard III, Macbeth… all cultivated virtuous, friendly, easy going manners to disarm their victims. While he looted their life savings, Bernie Madoff’s victims felt blessed that such a brilliant investor was kind enough to share his expertise with them.
In this week’s gospel, Jesus addresses the paradox of sin flourishing side by side and often indistinguishable from virtue. A farmer plants good seed; an enemy contaminates the field with weeds. The farmer decides to let them grow together and separate them at the harvest. Like the old Westerns, the people in this parable are characterized as either wheat or weeds… good guys or bad guys… white hats or black hats. But real life seldom offers such a binary choice.
We are more a struggling composite of venalities and virtues, ignorance and enlightenment, sin and grace. Paradoxically we are all sinners, but we live in the promise of salvation through the grace of the risen Christ. As such, at any given time, we are not all wheat or all weed. We are not a single plant. Rather each of us is more like a field of competing forces… tempted by the world, the flesh and the devil… loved and tended by our patient, merciful Creator.
If God can love us, care for us and forgive us in our sins, can we not do the same for each other? Can we not love each other, weeds and all? Or are we so busy comparing and judging, measuring every difference, feeding our egos, nursing our grudges… and in the process becoming proud and resentful weeds, fit only for the fire. That is the way it is with sin. It can start casually. It can look harmless, even attractive. It can mask its contamination with fragrance… but not for long. In time it overgrows and strangles the soul.
Our lifetime is a composite of all the many choices we make. When we’re young there is often so much confusion and contradiction, so many values competing to form our character. But eventually the patterns emerge. Our choices become more and more binary. Will we be a field of wheat or a bramble of weeds? Will we live to serve God and neighbor? Or will we live to serve ourselves… our appetites, our pride… always taking, never giving back… sucking up the sunshine and the nutrients… never bearing fruit.
When confused by the tangle of wheat and weeds… when confronted by life’s hard choices… Jesus gives us a simple, fool-proof rule: Always choose love. Follow Christ’s love in all things and you’ll never get lost in the weeds.
Copyright 2014, David Sellery. Used by permission.