- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Norman E. Steen at the Washington D.C. Christian Reformed Church in the District.
During this time of drought, our lawn has become more weeds than grass. So what are we going to do about it? One piece of advice has been, "You shouldn't pull all those weeds. Put in more grass seed, and the grass will take care of the problem."
In our lives, are we growing grass primarily, or pulling weeds primarily? Jesus' parable of God's kingdom [Matthew 13: 24-30] raises this question, and it could not be more earthy. A field owner sowed "good seed" and as the harvest approaches, the workers ask if they should pull the weeds first. The good seed, of course, is Jesus' preaching the good news of the kingdom. He is talking about grace and mercy as the good seed. He is talking about forgiveness and the love of the Father.
The disciples around Jesus heard that, and down through the centuries that good seed was sown. That good news touched me when I heard of Jesus, the son of God, crucified for my sins and resurrected from the dead. I believe it, and today I am sowing the seed as well. But there is more to Jesus' parable, isn't there? There is an enemy who comes in the night and sows the bad seed, the weeds, among the good.
What about these weeds? The world is full of evil things and evildoers. Like the workers in the parable, some people ask, "God, how could you tolerate all this evil in your world? Let's get rid of it completely, destroy it right now." What does Jesus say? He says, "No, you can't do that. When you are pulling the weeds you may root up the wheat with them." If you try to separate the good and the bad, and eliminate the bad rapidly at the root, it will do more harm than good. Jesus is counseling patience. Don't panic. Trust in God, and in the end, God will make the separation and judge what is good and what is bad.
In other words, says Jesus, goodness will win. I heard the story of a man who had suffered a mental breakdown, and his pastor went to the hospital and put his arm around him and asked, "Joe, what's going on with you?" Joe said, "Preacher, I'm afraid the bad guys are going to win." There is a lot of bad stuff out there. Serious problems. Much heartache and much evil. Wars and rumors of wars. Naturally, there are times we will fear that the bad guys are going to win. And Jesus' response? Don't be afraid. God is in control.
I don't know why God doesn't do things the way I think they should be done, or according to my timetable. It is true that in this world, and in my life and your life, things can get very messy and very confusing. Good and evil always show up together in the world, in the church and in our lives. The Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn said we can't simply separate out all the "evil people" and destroy them, because "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." That is the problem Jesus is dealing with.
In a poem about the "church militant," G.K. Chesterton also spoke about the question of getting rid of evil, and concluded that evil had to be fought. But he cautioned that our "towering thoughts" must bow down to God: "We too are weak with pride and shame." Jesus' answer to the problem of evil and fighting it is the patience of God. In fact, God has been very patient with me, so I can't urge too much haste. God has been patient with you also.
Jesus sowed good seeds, and He loved His enemies, and that is the way we have to fight evil, primarily, today. Whenever the church has gone on a crusade against evil, it has done more harm than good. Jesus says, "Concentrate on planting the grass, not pulling the weeds." It has been said that there are some "generals in the Christian army" who alarm the troops with "one scare story after another." Think instead of Paul's words: "Never pay evil back for evil. Overcome evil with good."
Next week: a sermon at a Maryland congregation


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