December 16, 2017

Open Thread: What does it mean to “Let both grow together…?”

durango-016.jpgMatthew 13:27-30. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

One of the most controversial aspects of the idea of the missional or emerging church is the inclusion of spiritual seekers- in some way or form- within the Christian community.

This is especially the case within two streams of evangelicalism. First, the more pragmatic, program-friendly approach associated with the “purpose driven” methodologies finds ways to include unbelievers in communities such as Celebrate Recovery or social ministries to the community. These churches are willing to make various aspects of the church “permeable” to seekers and unbelievers.

Secondly, the emerging church model often sees the entire church community as permeable and invites seekers and Christian believers into the community on an equal basis, with little or no differentiation in how the church views any person.

Obviously, these models stand in contrast to more traditional views of the church that draw strong boundary lines between believers and unbelievers. Putting together a theology and practice of the the church from scripture will necessitate an engagement with this issue.

Boundaries between believer and unbeliever within the community was a major aspect of old covenant religion, but to what extent is it a feature of the new covenant?

In particular, what is the application of the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13? What does it mean that the wheat and the tares are to “grow together?” Is the proper application of this text the mixture of all kinds of spiritual seekers in the Christian community?

One of the most exciting aspects of the missional/emerging church is the willingness to examine the nature of the Christian community in various incarnations and to ask if a new covenant, Jesus-shaped, spirituality invites all persons to receive the good news, but it allows those at different places in a “journey toward Jesus” to be a fully accepted part of the community that confesses Jesus is Lord.

I believe that the challenge to be a church with confessional integrity and to be a place where all kinds of people “grow together” is difficult, but necessary. When the church takes on an old covenant flavor and seekers are discouraged from journeying alongside believers in coming to confess Jesus, the Christian community can take on the appearance of being a “club” for Christians.

Jesus himself undertook a revolution of Judaism by eating with “sinners,” associating with the unclean and treating Gentiles as welcome in the Kingdom of God. How can we continue to be a “Jesus-shaped” movement without emulating this aspect of Jesus’ ministry?

Comments

  1. Just wanted to say excellent post, thanks.

  2. Could you elaborate on how “Boundaries between believer and unbeliever within the community was a major aspect of old covenant religion”?

    As I see it, in the older covenant the boundaries were (a) ethnic, and (b) based on practice rather than belief.

    In other words, you were outside if you were either not a Jew, or else a Jew who had ceased to DO the things prescribed by Torah. “Belief” as such may have been important to the Lord who sees the heart, but it was not (and still is not today in mainstream Judaism) an issue with the human community.

    Thus, these boundaries are based on criteria which are readily perceived by the community; if you set up a boundary between believer and unbeliever how are you going to maintain the boundary short of mindreading? Who can really judge another’s belief?

    Interesting topic, this.

    Wolf

  3. I belong to a Christian tradition that believes all are welcome into the Church. Seekers? Bring ’em on! We love it when anyone walks through that door. For they are putting themselves (or the Spirit is)in the path of the Word of the living God. And anything is possible at that point.

    Of course, in a congregation there must be order, and there are rules to followed.

    I don’t think we could reasonably expect someone to be at a Christian worship service and openly deny Jesus. That would be grounds to ask that person to leave, for good order. Openly unrepentant church members, or church members that are sowing discord, also might be asked to leave to keep the peace in a congregation.That would not necessarily be the un-Christian thing to do. It might be the un-Christian thing if it wasn’t done. I don’t think that’s what the parable in question is referinig to, however.

    I believe that within every Christian congregation there are believers and non-believers. Those who have heard (I mean really heard and have been grabbed hold of by God) and there are those that just haven’t been chosen(yet). Jesus says, “let the wheat and the tares grow together.” He will seperate them at the appointed time. It’s not for us to do. It’s not for us to know who the believers are and who are not. (although we might have our suspicions we can never know for sure, for only God knows the heart)
    One can be on the church council, serve on three committees and attend all three services on Sunday, and not belong to Jesus. It is still good that he or she is there. For whenever they are in the path of God’s Word… etc., etc..

    I think that Jesus gave us the parable and the admonition so that we wouldn’t throw out the guy that never volunteers for anything, doesn’t sing so enthusiastically, doesn’t know the creeds by heart (after all these years) , etc. (that guy may have a stronger faith than anyone else in the congregation!)

    There are two churches. The one that sits in the pews on Sunday, and the one that Christ knows.

    Another great topic, Michael.

    Thanks!

    – Steve

  4. Heteroclite says:

    Yes, He “hung out” with them in everyday life, but did they also frequent the synagogues and (later) the house churches? It is one thing to rub elbows with the unconverted “outside of the Temple,” but quite another to pretend they belong to the community of saints. Else, why would Paul refer to “outsiders” and to judging only those within the ranks? “Purge the evil person from among you.” And the “welcome in the Kingdom of God” was contingent upon faith in the Redeemer; it wasn’t a free-for-all.

    Of course, the substance question behind this whole issue is: are worship services intended for believers, or for non-believers? (How can there even be a recognition of God’s worth [“worthship”] if someone isn’t in Him yet?) This is a crucial question, not only for the “w. vs. t.” issue, but for sermon-design as well, that is: should the sermon “speak” to the lowest common denominator, or should it be geared towards those who’re advanced enough for meat?

  5. I was once a weed. Im eternally grateful that a wheat came along side and made me a wheat. Elimination sounds too much like the crusades, which isnt a feather Im comfortable with having in my hat.

  6. Kevin,

    God made you a “wheat”.

    The other “wheats” didn’t get in the way.
    And if they did, it wasn’t a barrier to Him!

    – Steve (a fellow “wheat”)

  7. OK. We are going to stay on topic on this thread, so if you post and it doesn’t appear, don’t wonder why.

  8. I agree with your conclusion. There has to be room in every church for those who are not yet Christians, and for those who do not fully affirm whatever doctrine that particular church professes. As someone who is currently looking for a denomination, I am grateful to those who have allowed me into their communities. I would add to your list of passages ones where Jesus is putting up with disbelief, misunderstanding, repeated questioning, and confusion from his own disciples/apostles.

    However, I’m not sure if Matthew 13’s “let both grow together” is as applicable to your question as you imply. As I read it, the tares mentioned in Matthew 13 will always remain tares, and the wheat will always remain wheat. Therefore, there is no value in letting “both grow together” outside the fact that to remove the tares early would risk damaging the wheat.

    In other words, I think Matthew 13 is more about explaining why there is sin in the world (“an enemy has done this”), and God’s plan for judgment (after “the harvest”), than about converting tares into wheat by incorporating the “unsaved” into the Christian community.

    I’m not in the predestination camp, and I believe that Bible passages can have multiple meanings. Thus, I understand that Matthew 13 could be an instruction to include non-believers with believers; but, I just don’t see it, yet. Could you or one of the commentators elaborate more on Matthew 13, and its role in converting tares into wheat for me?

    Thanks. Love the Blog.

  9. We just studied this passage in our Bible Study and what I get out of it is that Christ leaves the tares *for the sake of the wheat*.

    I think we’ve all seen theological crusades to ‘purge the church of sin and sinners’ that left many true Christians beaten and broken in the aftermath – exactly what Jesus says will happen if one attempts to do his job of the final judgement before the appointed time and by the appointed person (hint: pastor on a theological power trip, it is not your role to decide who is ‘in’ and ‘out’ based on adherence to a precept you hold dear).

    I don’t see this as about the tares so much as about the Church and what is best for Christ’s body through the millenia. There are negative consequences to having the tares among the wheat – but the ramifications of attempting to root out every tare would be far more devastating and spiritually damaging to those who belong to Christ.

  10. It depends on what you mean by “being in the church.” If by that you mean can they come to church, of course. Church is one place they can see the gospel in action as well as hear about it. And places like Celbrate Recovery can be for them too. But the emergent stream seems to be accepting into Baptism and church membership people who are dubious about having received Christ. They may be on the journey, and that is fine. But in the real early church (not the early medieval one) the church seemed to be concerned with making sure people who were baptized had truly received Christ, understood what that meant, and were at least trying to turn around from sin. The repentence aspect seems to be missing from many emergent churches today. And that is what is alarming many of us. That doesn’t make us “old fogies.” It simply means we are cognizant of the Biblical New Testament church both from the Scriptures themselves and also historically in the first two centuries.

  11. What is the “real” early church?

    >But the emergent stream seems to be accepting into Baptism and church membership people who are dubious about having received Christ.

    What specifically are you referring to with that observation?

  12. As I see it there is two points made in scriptures.

    2 Cor 6 14-17 Don’t associate with non-believers
    Matthew 5:46-48 Don’t limit grace

    I guess its two different points. One talking about in church and two talking about outside of church. But I just don’t see what it accomplishes not letting people attend Church. Are we any more righteous in God’s eyes when we exclude people? I’m not saying non-believers should let non-believers run the service. But do we not allow our children to attend church? And what can it do but good to attend church?

  13. I meant I’m not saying we should let non-believers run the service

  14. Steve-Thank you for correcting my statement. Indeed God made me a new creation (wheat) with the help of other “wheats”.
    Scripture says “an enemy has done this” which seems to me includes those outside as well as inside the church.
    Those hostile to Christ and his people. If they are inside the church perhaps they are there to sow discord,
    choke, destroy, tear down. Not there to go thru the motions pretending to be a believer.
    Its interesting also the contrast between weed and wheat. Weed being: selfish, controlling, not useful.
    Wheat being: the desired item, producing a yield for others benefit.
    In any church we can find those who are for real and those living a lie. I agree its hard to tell the difference. Jesus indicates he will deal with these
    weeds and for us not to separate or judge.

  15. Kevin,

    You are so right when you said “It’s hard to tell the difference.” Performance means nothing. That’s right. Performance means nothing, because we cannot know the motives. Only God sees the heart.

    The most upright, moral, godly-appearing man or woman may be totally lost, and the heroin addict strungout in the alley may be totally one of God’s children.

    The Pharisee and the tax collector.(somewhere in the N.T.)
    This shakes the ground beneath the feet of the “good religious” person. It’s meant to.

    “Who can know the mind of God?”(somewhere in the Bible, also…I think)

    Thanks Kevin.

    – Steve

  16. The way I’ve seen this passage is dealing w/ the visible church vs. the true church (like the ethnic Israel vs. the true Israel). So the tares have less to do w/ seekers than they are those who are not saved living w/in the church. As i have heard that form of weed was a specific kind that looked like the wheat until they budded or whatever wheat does. So they’re marked by indistinguishable characteristics until the day when they are harvested. As to growing together, it seems like the servants wouldn’t be able to distinguish and thus would run the risk of uprooting wheat along w/ tares. Better to let both continue in the church than to risk hurting the true believers.

  17. Heteroclite says:

    Steve said: “heroin addict strungout in the alley may be totally one of God’s children.” If you mean somewhere down the road, God might draw him into repentance and faith [“latent” elect], then yes, that could be true. But let’s not forget “not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one.”

  18. Heteroclite- But what did Jesus do? Did He ever refuse to see anybody?

  19. Bror Erickson says:

    Let’s not forget we are all God’s Children. It really doesn’t matter who you are, or what sort of messed up situation you find yourself in the objective reality is God died for your sins too. This is true also of the heroin addict, he is God’s child. God loves him just as much as he loves the self-righteous hypocrite who walks by him on the way to church, that is he loves them both enough to send his son to die for them on the cross.
    That is not to say that all are Christians. Not everyone who goes to church on sunday is a Christian, and a good many Christians miss church on anygiven Sunday. I have always read the parable of the weat and the tairs as simply saying that faith is invisible you do not know who has it and who doesn’t. Yes brothers and sisters in the faith will from time to time have to be admonished for this or that, the chief purpose of that is not to make them selfrighteous, but to bring them to repentance so they can hear the Gospel.

  20. Heteroclite,

    I think Jared, Joe, and Bror, are on the right track.

    Since our true state (of faithfulness) is not just our outward appearance, but in the depths of our heart and all the secret sins that are kept therein; we are all idolators.

    Everyone chooses to put their own agendas in place of God’s. This truth of human nature is revealed every time we sin. We are exposed by what we do, what we think, and what we don’t do that we ought be doing.

    A repentant heart (being sorry), is what the Lord is after. Truthfulness to what we really are. That is all the Lord is looking for. When He finds that in a person (and He actually leads us to repentance)that is enough for Him to work with.

    If I qualify, than the heroin addict qualifies. For my heart is not one little bit better than the heart of the heroin addict. (mine is probably worse)

    I appreciate your comments, Heteroclite. Thank you.

    – Steve

  21. Heteroclite says:

    Joe, Steve, et al: I appreciate your comments. Please enlighten me, though, as to what you do with the admonition about not associating with the types of folks who call themselves brethren, yet are living the kind of life that Paul there condemns? Should we pit Paul against Jesus (there are plenty of folks who do)? Do we simply ignore verses like those, which yet seem to be highly relevant to the question @ hand?

    I was under the impression from reading Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees that the “pick-the-raisins-out-of-the-toast” method of Bible reading was dead wrong. Believe me, there’re PLENTY of verses from the Scriptures, O.T. and N.T. I’d like to pull a “Luther-nixes-James” on, but God forbids it. So what do we do with the unpleasant verses, like the above-mentioned? It is a vexation.

  22. Michael and Company…

    I have a bit different thought on this. It’s the fact that we are both wheat and tares within our own imperfect lives. We are both sinner and saint. In the end, God will seperate our two natures, destroying one and, thus, purifying the other. Does this make any sense at all? It’s more of a theory than a doctrine for me but this is one of my favorite verses to ponder.

  23. Greg McR says:

    Ah, the “field is the world” NOT THE CHURCH! Hello?

    “He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.”

  24. I think Heteroclite is correct, there should be a distinction between sinful believers and sinful unbelievers. However I am a person jaded by the Church in general (catholic, protestant etc) and do not expect that we will ever get it right. I think the emerging churches are doing a good job of turning the church back to what her focus should be: Jesus. I like the deconstruction, I’m not too keen on repainting the faith though.

  25. Greg McR says:

    Why do we need wild speculation and spiritualizing of a text that is clearly explained just a few verses later. All of the interpretations on this thread including Micheal’s initial post stand in direct contradiction to the text. This parable is about removing evil people from the World not the Church.

  26. I agree with what Charley and Rae-anna said above. The passage itself is not about seekers. The tares are not included in the field because they might become wheat. They are included so that in pulling them up, the wheat is not damaged.

    The point about the church creating space for seekers could probably be defended from other passages or from common sense, though.

  27. I appreciate your comments. It is a good question and always a hard line to balance.

    The problem is that Paul contradicts himself Look at 1 Corinthians 1 9-13 First off he tells them not to associate with sexually immoral persons; then he changes that to those people within the church. Paul changes his mind. Paul also accepts slavery (Colossians 3 22-25) discourages marriage because he thinks Christ is coming back soon, and don’t get me started on his views about women.

    I do think that Paul is a Saint and did amazing things for Christianity. I think, however, we have to see Paul through the eyes of Jesus. Jesus has to come first.

    Back to what I said before. Jesus never sent away anyone that came to Him. He said things that made people leave, but He never rejected them, they rejected Him.

    I think whether we like it or not we pick and choose what we like out of Scripture. I’m pretty sure that you could take certain verses out of context and could claim that Jesus was a ninja. I guess my question is; if the gospel is not for sinners then who in the world is it for? I know in my own life I will struggle with Matt 5: 28 till the day I die. The important thing is that I try. After all we all fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3 9-20)

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