Jesus used parables to shock the people, and us, into a new way of thinking and seeing things. In todays Gospel Story (Mt 13:24-30), he tells the parable of the Weeds and the Wheat, where the landowner plants a field of wheat. Unknown to him, some enemies plant weeds among the wheat. When his servants want to pull up the weeds, the landowner says, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them, let them grow together until the harvest”, and the harvesters will sort them out.
When we listen to this Parable in the setting of what is going on today, it seems many of us, and I include myself here, would rather look at the “weeds” around us and pull them out. It’s like we’re saying to God, “we’ll judge because we know these people better than you do”. We judge people a lot based on how comfortable we are with how they think or live. We fear what we don’t understand. We might even go so far as to determine who is in the ‘state of grace’, whatever that is, who is “worthy” to receive communion, who is living in sin, etc. How much wheat are we pulling out? How many good folks are we, I, hurting with our/my narrow-minded and often self-serving attitude? This continually bothers me as I go about my daily living.
Do I really know anyone well enough to decide how they are in the eyes of God? Do I know their journey, their story, or have intimate knowledge of their conscience? Am I so focused on law that I don’t pay attention to the Gospel commands of love and justice? How do I feel when people judge me as good or bad according to their personal sense of morality and faith, their version of God? How often have I been judged by people who had no idea of who I am or what I’m doing other than I have not embraced their pet projects or ideas, or do not use the proper words or wear the proper clothes? Do I want to inflict this sort of pain on others? Do I really believe that each of us as we are reflects God in a way that nobody else can, or is my talking about this merely a stated value and not an operational one?
It is important to remember that as folks who try to follow Jesus, our commitment is not to a set of doctrines or laws, important as they might be, but to the Person Jesus. In him we encounter what can be learned of God in our human condition. For us he is not an idea, but the living revelation of God in human form. From him, in him, with him, through him we learn to live in a way that reflects the God who creates us. Each of us is making our own journey. We walk with different people at different times in our life. Jesus sends the Spirit to help us gain some insight into what it means for us in our situation to live as a disciple of Jesus.
What I have to be careful of is believing that how the I think the Spirit is guiding me in my life is the way that the Spirit is guiding everybody, in other words, that my way of thinking and living is the only right way for everybody else. I might go so far as to say that anybody who does not live or think the way I do is wrong, and my understanding of God is the only “true” one. And so I begin to pull up the “weeds” and wheat in my life.
None of us has a monopoly on God. We encounter God in our life as it is, not as we wish it were, or are told it should be. I’ve been around for a while, so my experience of God is different from a teenager trying to figure out who they are, a young couple just starting out with their family, someone dealing with the death of a spouse, or a soldier defending the country in challenging situations. All of us can be right in our way, without demanding others agree with us. When I judge others by my standards, how much hurt am I causing? I might justify myself by saying I am only concerned with their welfare, or that I, to use the terribly judgmental words, “hate the sin but love the sinner”, a phrase that seems to apply only to very specific “sins”. Seems a bit self-serving.
I’ve also learned over the years that if I focus on judging folks who are not living as I think they should, I am not open to, or aware of, the Spirit nudging me in my own life. It’s easier for me to judge others than to do the hard work of growing on my own journey. People are good. All of us have some fragility in our life. My non-accepting and judgmental attitude of someone who isn’t living as I think they should, can cause them real and unnecessary pain. To me they might be a weed, while to God they are a beautiful flower, and to them I might be a weed, but to God I am a beautiful flower. It works both ways. God certainly knows others better than I do. As we see in the Gospels, many people had a profoundly personal experience of Jesus, and many do so today. This can be different for each one of us, and we cannot judge others who know God in ways other than ours, who see life differently from us, and are just doing their best to be who they are, and live a good life.
Our awareness of God, whatever it may or may not be, is personal but not private. It affects how we live and what we do. Others’ awareness or apparent lack thereof, might may us feel uncomfortable, but that is our situation to deal with, and the Spirit is there to help us. A lot of good is done by folks without any religious reference, yet it is still good. We have much more that unites us than divides us. We can always learn from each other. None of us has all the answers, we just have different questions, and I believe the Spirit is in the questioning. Just sayin . . .