While you were Sleeping

July 28, 2019

Romans 8:18-25, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-48


A romantic comedy called While You Were Sleeping involves the story of a single woman with a mundane life who happens to be in love with a stranger, a man she sees Monday through Friday as he passes her token booth in the train station. Her opportunity for direct contact comes when he falls onto the track and she saves his life; however, he remains unconscious for a few weeks. During that time, she meets his family, who believe her to be his fiancée. 

Her adoration of this unconscious man begins to lessen as she learns of his rather superficial and selfish nature. At the same time, she forms a bond with his brother, a soft spoken, frustrated craftsman who works for the family business but wants more from life. Naturally, when the man regains consciousness, she no longer loves him but has fallen for his brother. As you would expect, there is a happy ending, and the last line of the movie is, “Peter once asked me when I fell in love with Jack. And I told him, “It was while you were sleeping.” 

We miss a lot of life while we are sleeping, and that’s not always physical sleep. Often, we find ourselves unprepared for what happens right before our eyes. The parable Jesus gave about the wheat and the weeds is primarily a parable about good and evil, but also about the differences and the subtleties of how good and evil exist side by side in the world. 

We only need to listen closely to the words of Jesus to understand this parable’s point. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So, when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.” 

There’s a field planted in good seed, yet an enemy came by night and sowed weeds alongside the good seed. Then that enemy disappeared, and when the plants began to produce, wouldn’t you know the weeds made themselves known, right next to the wheat. You might even say they were inseparable. The Greek word for sleep has among its definitions the idea of being indifferent to one’s salvation. It is the same word Jesus spoke to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.  

If we understand this parable to be about people in God’s kingdom, it begs us to pay attention to what is going on. God has a definite plan for His kingdom none of us may understand. The servants of the kingdom may question why God would allow the evil weeds to exist, why God would not pluck them up before they became a problem. God’s answer to that was to leave them alone, for in uprooting the weeds we might uproot the wheat. 

Since Jesus identified the wheat as good and the weeds as evil, we may feel inclined to protest, “That’s not fair! Why should we have to exist side by side with evil? Doesn’t God care about us?” It’s a ridiculous argument without merit. We cannot possibly comprehend the mind of God, nor can we comprehend just how much He cares for us. Not even the ministry of His Son, who exhausted Himself to heal and to make whole the lives of hurting people, then died to save the world, can satisfy our understanding of why evil is allowed to continue. 

Christ fought evil in person, and yet that was not the final victory.   This parable tells us God knows the difference between good and evil, that He doesn’t create evil, and that He intends to deal with the problem in His own time. If we go out into the world and try to weed out evil, to spray spiritual herbicide on everything we don’t like or agree with, we are only complicating what for God is not complicated. 

Our tendency to split our world into two; believer or nonbeliever, sinners or saints – is not useful. We are in this world together, whether this world is our planet, our country, our community, or our congregations, we must grow together and allow the Great Judge, God, to do the separating in God’s own time. We should acknowledge that likewise we need each other to survive.[1] 

According to the parable, it is the angels who reap the harvest, not the servants of the kingdom. This is heavenly work. We have no part of the removal of the weeds; frankly, we do not have the criteria to distinguish wheat from weeds. We are all at times a bit weedy in our attitudes and behaviors, which is the point made by St. Augustine, who wrote, “at times what was grain turns into weeds and at times the weeds turn into grain; and no one knows what they will be tomorrow.” 

God’s response to the weeds shocks us to the core, makes us feel we must know more than God about what it’s like to live shoulder to shoulder with the presence of evil. But God says, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” That simple word “let” is full of mercy and grace. It means to let go, to forgive, to go away and leave something behind. It appears in the Lord’s prayer when we effectively say, “Let go of our trespasses as we let go of the trespasses of others.” 

Forgiving evil. Pardoning injustice. Suffering sin. If God can do it, surely, we can too. The apostle Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people hurt you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. This is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it.” I’ll get to the blessing in a bit, but now I want to share a situation in which I was pushed to my limits by someone who questioned my obedience to God and my own personal convictions.  

I held my position, communicated what I felt God was asking me to do, but eventually I felt that truly I was facing the oppression of evil. It was not temptation I was fighting, but persecution. I have not felt such fear since the night a man was murdered in my neighborhood and the police were searching for the suspect.  

This person who caused this uneasiness and fear professed to be a Christian, and a minister as well. If we remember Jesus’ command to love our neighbor, that must extend to the weed who lives next door. That must include the people who share our pews. God’s plan involves patience of the greatest magnitude, all that we can muster. God’s harvest will be on a grand scale, and all injustice will be made right, all sins dealt with.  

The apostle Paul said it a bit more inspiring. “I consider our present sufferings insignificant compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us. All creation is eagerly awaiting for God to reveal who his children are.”  Did you catch that last part? Amazingly, this says Christians are not all that distinguishable from the rest of humanity. When the wheat and the weeds are finally separated and good stands apart from evil for the first time since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, only then will the glory of God in us be revealed. Only then will we experience the freedom that Christ has promised us in Himself. 

Even as followers of Christ we are never completely free. We are in bondage to the forces of sin on Earth and within ourselves. If we don’t acknowledge this, we are hindering our spiritual growth. This bondage is what keeps us from the image of Christ, from being the people of God we are called to be. It originates from the evil with which we dwell, but God does not allow it to overcome us.  

The apostle Paul spoke about freedom this way, “You were indeed called to be free, brothers and sisters. Don’t turn this freedom into an excuse for your corrupt nature to express itself. Rather, serve each other through love. All of Moses’ teachings are summarized in a single statement, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”  

All of creation is waiting in anticipation of the harvest. Paul said it has been groaning for a very long time, ever since the earth was cursed by God as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We groan right along with creation, inwardly in our souls, because we know that our transformation into Christ’s image, into God’s kingdom is not yet complete. We have not yet completed our adoption as children of God. We have yet to receive the redemption of our bodies. We are still bound together with the weeds in the field. 

This is the blessing I spoke of earlier. Peter called it an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is the hope Paul spoke of, a hope which keeps us waiting with patience for God to act in judgment, which is really what the harvest is all about. God’s angels will reap, they will gather up all causes of sin and all those who break God’s laws and destroy them forever.  

At that time, and only at that time, God will deal with all the sorrow, suffering, hurt and destruction sin has created. Until that time, we are meant to wait patiently, prayerfully, not retaliating, not being tempted to sin or let anger have any control over us. So why is it we want to name some people we’d like to lock up and throw away the key right now?  

How can we point fingers and shout insults at people on our screens and feel the hate rising within us? Why do some people seem to thrive despite sin? Why do we have to share our world with “those people”? Paul describes God’s kingdom as righteousness, peace, and joy. For us to see a world that can be characterized as such, we must acknowledge that the causes of sin are not simply our personal struggles, but more so our societal ills.  

For instance, the causes of poverty – war, greed, selfishness, etc. – are sin. It is not for us to judge one another or to separate ourselves from each other. If our spiritual wallet is to contain a license issued by the kingdom of God, we must live peaceably and compassionately with all, recognizing that we, the good and the evil, are necessary for each other’s survival.[2] 

It is not our choice to share our world with “those people.” It is God’s choice. It is God’s world. It is God’s field. God planted and seeds grew up well, but someone snuck in and planted too. And rather than risk the whole production being destroyed, God made provisions for the weeds to grow alongside the wheat, knowing that even the most heinous act of evil the weeds could produce would never undo the tremendous act of redemption God has planned.  

Until then, evil will be a force in the world. The presence of both good and evil in God’s perfect creation is not so unimaginable. It has been that way since nearly the beginning. If we understand the origin of evil, the history of sin, evil came from something that once was good. Lucifer was once an angel of the Lord who made the choice to go against God to gain power that God had, and he was punished because of it. The finest field is never completely free of weeds; could it be that turning weeds into wheat is exactly what Christ came into the world? 

In older translations the word for weeds appears as tares, a world I remember from working in a concrete company. A tare is that weight attributed to a container which must be deducted to calibrate net weight of a product. Consider this; the heaviness of the evil of this world has yet to be deducted, so the net weight of good remains uncalculated until the time of Christ’s return. Don’t be anxious about evil being counted against you but do continue to add to the weight of goodness.  

[1] www.workingpreacher.com, Kaalund, Jennifer, T.

[2] Ibid

Published by McKenna_Thrush

You may be wondering what makes our relationship so unique... Cole has Asperger's, and I (McKenna) have Cerebral Palsy. The challenges of life, coupled with our disabilities can make for a pretty interesting day-to-day life. In fact our life sometimes seems like anything but day-to-day. ​I suppose the same can be said for our relationship from the beginning. We started dating just over 2 years ago and decided that we wanted to have a courtship than your typical dating relationship. The purpose of showing people our lives, is to show people that disability doesn't need to stop you from reaching your goals. You can still go to college, live independently, get married, and even have a family regardless of the cards you are dealt. We may not be your typical couple. we may not live "normal lives" but that doesn't stop us from living the best life we can!

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