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Pastor's Corner: 'They're so mean'

Every church is flawed. People have bad experiences, of one kind or another, even at healthy churches. Churches are made up of people, so this isn't a big surprise. It can be a big disappointment, or an obstacle to going back, but it shouldn't be a shock when churches have problems.

A major source of problems is people. That's too big a subject for one article, though, so I'll narrow the focus substantially. Some of the difficulties churches have, and some of the bad experiences people have in churches, arise from a lack of purity. What I mean is that in a congregation containing many people who are both holy and kind, others may lack one or the other (or both) of those qualities.

That's applying a parable Jesus once told to an individual congregation. In the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), Jesus explained that in the field representing the kingdom of heaven, wheat and tares grow together until the harvest. In other words, good seed and bad seed are mixed together until the day of judgment.

Now that doesn't seem ideal. The farmhands in the parable asked if they should remove the weeds. Our instinct is to want a field with only good grain. We have a preference for purity, at least in some areas (e.g., pure air, pure water, pure gold).

But there was a very good reason not to weed, namely, the risk of removing good plants along with bad.

This parable about the kingdom of heaven is not primarily about us or local churches. It is most of all about God. The owner of the field is willing to tolerate the downsides of having tares growing in his field, because he is committed to the preservation of the good plants. To put it directly, the reason that the church is not pure is that God will not have his own removed prematurely. The negatives of impurity are outweighed by the imperative of preventing harm to good plants.

These words may raise a lot of questions in those who read them. The parables Jesus told often had that effect, also. There would be much more to say about purity in the church, bad experiences and related topics. But this parable makes one unexpected point that is also good to chew on: God allows impurity in the kingdom of heaven during this stage of history because of his commitment to preserving his people.

Ruben Zartman has been the pastor at Ebenezer Reformed Church since 2017.


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