In the old-time Westerns it didn’t take much insight to tell the good guys from the bad guys, the white hats from the black hats. But real life is a lot more complicated and a lot less predictable. Great literature reflects that reality. Shakespeare’s bloodiest villains (Iago, Richard III, Macbeth) all cultivated virtuous, friendly, easy going manners to disarm their victims. While he looted their life savings, Bernie Madoff’s victims mistakenly felt blessed that such an apparently wise and good man was sharing his expertise with them.
In our gospel lesson for Sunday, Jesus reflects on the parable of the weeds: the paradox of sin flourishing side by side and sometimes indistinguishable from virtue. A farmer plants good seed; an enemy contaminates the field with weeds. The farmer decides to let them grow together and separate them at the harvest. Like the old Westerns, traditional interpretation often characterized people as either wheat or weeds – good guys or bad guys – black hats or white hats. But real life seldom offers such a binary choice.
We are more a struggling composite of venalities and virtues, ignorance and
enlightenment, sin and grace. Paradoxically we are all sinners, but we live in the certain hope of salvation through the grace of our risen Savior. As such we are not all wheat or all weed. We are not a single plant. Each of us is a whole field, loved and tended by our patient, merciful Creator.
If God can love us, care for us and forgive us in our sins. Can we not do the same for each other? Can we not love each other, weeds and all? When confused by the tangle of wheat and weeds, always opt for love. God will sort it all out in his good time.
Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, the Rev. David Sellery serves as an Episcopal priest that seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, and congregational growth.