Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
As you have by no doubt realized by now (unless this is your first week reading, of course), my brother Scott and I are identical twins. When people find out we are twins the very first question they ask is, “Can you tell the difference?” In case you were wondering, yes I can. But I think what they mean is can most people tell the difference. But almost as surely as they ask if we look alike the next question out of their mouth is, “So are you the good twin or the evil one?”
Now, I think I know which I am, but this week when I saw one of those social media quizzes come across my newsfeed I saw my opportunity to settle this once and for all. The quiz was called “How Good/Evil are you?” You answer 10 questions like, “You can’t find a parking spot, but there are many empty handicap spots, what do you do?” Or “Would you stop, swerve, or run over a turtle crossing the road?” And after you’ve answered each the question, the quiz generates your completely scientific and accurate result of how good you are. I am delighted to report that am 85% good and 15% evil. Knowing that my brother, Scott, could not hope to defeat me I sent him the quiz to take as a rubber stamp sealing my righteousness. But guess what? He got 90.
I guess that makes me the evil twin.
Now, in truth, I’ve always sort of resisted the notion that one of us is good or even better than the other, and I definitely don’t put any stock in stupid online quizzes, but all of this does raise for me important questions about how we understand righteousness… how we understand good and evil.
You see, we don’t just think that twins come in two varieties… good or evil… sometimes we think that people come that way too. There are good people and bad people. Jesus told a parable once about the kingdom of heaven that resembled that notion. He said it’s like someone who sowed good seed in his field, but at night someone else came and sowed weeds as well. When the plants started to grow the wheat and weeds were growing right next to each other.
Many people over time have used this parable to justify the position we named before. People come in two varitities: good and bad… wheat and weeds. Pretty simple right? Only, my experience in the real world with real people is hardly so clearly defined. I’ve watched people others might call “bad” do some pretty good things, and I know many good people (myself included) who want to do right, but often—too often—do bad.
You see, there aren’t weed people and wheat people. There are people, and each of us have weeds and each of us have wheat. Luther used to say that all of us are Saints and Sinners. He was saying that all of us aren’t the plants, we’re the field in Jesus’ story. We are wheat and weeds at the same time, and we can’t help it.
But Jesus can. Jesus weeds us out. For too long that has been understood as Jesus thinning the herd… as Jesus picking favorites… and Jesus distinguishing between good and bad people. But all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so when we say that Jesus is weeding us out we mean that Jesus is weeding us (individually) out. Jesus is weeding the evil from within us.
And in a world where planes are shot out of the sky, where nations are launching rockets and ground attacks, and where children are detained because of where they were born, thank God. Thank God for weeding the sin from his children’s lives, and may it start with us. May we stop looking for weed people and start looking for the weeds God longs to pull from us.
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