"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 then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, 'No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
Most people dislike living in a mess: we have an instinct to clean up the place. The more tidy-minded we are, the more trouble we will have with messy rooms, messy organisation, messy thinking, messy feelings….
I'm sure no one but a pig would want to live in a pigsty, but if tidiness is the most important and solemn rule in a home, it creates an unreal atmosphere for children. “Cleanliness is next to….?” asked the teacher. “Next to impossible,” said the grubby little boy. We have to learn to live with mess, because life is messy. If it is suppressed it will come out later, and possibly in some other area, like human relationships….
There was a book some years ago entitled I’m OK, You’re OK, by Thomas A Harris. It listed all the logically possible combinations of attitudes to self and others: 1. I'm ok, you’re ok; 2. I'm ok, you’re not ok; 3. I'm not ok, you’re ok; and 4. I'm not ok, you’re not ok. Someone gave a copy to Thich Nhat Hahn, the Buddhist monk who has a centre in the Dordogne area in the south of France. Next morning when asked for his opinion of the book he said, “It’s ok! But it would be better if there was another category: I'm not ok, you're not ok, and that's ok!” This is much closer to the Christian spirit.
The Church is messy: not in its ideal, but in actual experience. There are Christians who are unable to live with this, and who become angry with everyone who is different from themselves. This is to begin at the wrong point. The real beginning is one’s own conversion, not that of others. When I begin at the wrong point my religion becomes a crusade, a search for a ‘pure race’. Certainly, faith is not just my own business, but if I am converted I will go to others with the Good News, not with a critical and hypocritical spirit.
The spirit of Jesus says, Leave the weeds; leave them for God to sort out at harvest-time – in other words, leave them forever. “Who are you to give a verdict on your neighbour?” (James 4:12).
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