Last Sunday the sermon was on the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. I mentioned that there were further thoughts that I had on this parable. So here they are.
We often look at Jesus' response on not pulling up the weeds for fear of hurting the wheat as a guide for our lives in the church. We think that he is telling us that we are to leave well enough alone and let the Lord handle the separating of those who are wheat and those who are weeds. The problem with this thought is that it will cripple the church as it attempts to proclaim the full message of Christ. We must proclaim both Law and Gospel. To avoid proclaiming the Law because it might "pull up" the wrong person in causing them pain (thinking they are weeds) while they are really God's child (wheat). Even a person who is "wheat" must hear the Law, since they still face the temptation and challenges of sin. Their heart is still sinful, desiring to do that which is not pleasing to the Lord. To not proclaim Law, pointing out their sin for fear of pulling up the wheat with the weeds is a misuse of this parable.
We are to proclaim the Word to all - Christian and non-Christian. We are not to judge the faith of a person (which is what we want to do. This person is a true Christian because...that person is not a true Christian because...) We are to avoid that type of judgment. This takes us into the realm of the Visible and Invisible Church. Do you remember what these are?
The Visible Church is made up of all those who say that they are a Christian. The Visible Church is made of true believers and hypocrites (in the true sense of the word and not in the sense that we often use when we want to find fault with either the church or the people in it). The hypocrite is the person who is a part of the church but not truly believing in Christ as their Savior.
The Invisible Church is made up of only true believers. There are no hypocrites in the Invisible Church. Can you tell the difference between the two? No you cannot. The only One who is able to make the distinction is God Himself. He alone can say who is a believer and who is not a believer. That is why at the end of the Parable of the Wheat, it is the Lord who sends the angels as reapers to do His will by separating the wheat from the weeds. You and I do not do it. We are not to do it here on earth nor will we do it at the end of time. That is not our position or call in life. Jesus warns us against doing such a thing.
But we cannot misuse this parable to open the kingdom of heaven to everyone, despite what their life is like. (Sounds like I am contradicting myself, but stay with me.) If I claim faith in Christ, but live my life completely without Christ, then I better look at my profession again. God is not fooled. We can fool one another, and even ourselves, but God knows our hearts. Remember that Jesus knew what was in the heart of the Pharisees who came to trap Him, even though they used kind words.
So does that mean that as a pastor I should do the funeral of anyone when I am asked? No it doesn't. The first question to ask is still, "Did the person believe in Christ?" The answer to that is critical. Did they believe? If they professed faith in Christ, who am I to say they didn't go to heaven? If they did not profess faith in Christ, how can I preach them into heaven?
The struggle that we have is when it comes to living the life of faith. We like to look at the actions of a person and say, "He is a weed!" or "He is wheat!" That isn't how the judgment is made. Yes, as a Christian, we should bear the fruit of the Spirit not the fruit of sin (see Galatians 5) and yet, at the same time, there is no perfect Christian. I would like to say that I follow the Lord all the time, that I bear the fruit of the Spirit day in and day out, but I don't. I can't. Why? I am still struggling with sin, with myself. Everyone does.
I was asked at a recent funeral if the person really was saved. The answer that I gave is this: He proclaimed that he still trusted in the Lord as His Savior. His life might not have reflected that at all times, but it isn't his actions and deeds that saved him. It was Christ's actions and deeds upon the cross that made the difference for the person who we laid to rest. It isn't different for any one of us. You might have lived a life that was filled with the wonders of the fruit of the Spirit, and you are stilled saved only by Christ's sacrifice upon the cross, not by your deeds.
So the wheat grows in Christ. The weeds are a part of this world as well. They grow together. It isn't for us to try to distinguish between the two. Instead we continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the salvation of all mankind. We are not the ones who decide who is wheat and who is weeds. Christ does that.