All of us have heard the saying, "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater." This phrase, originating from a German proverb "das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten" (1512) reminds us to keep our perspective when we are getting rid of things we think are no longer useful. We can dehumanize people and dismiss the good with the bad. We can try to cull out the bad and end up culling out the good. We can pull up the tares and end up destroying the wheat crop.
Matthew 13:24-30 contains some wisdom that is hard to apply but valuable when trying to deal with an imperfect world. In the parable a man plants a garden but as his crop of wheat grows, so do weeds that look just like the wheat. The farmer is told to let the crop mature and at the harvest, allow the gatherers to separate the wheat from the tares. Good advice for the farmer and good advice for us.
Three things to learn (at least) from this story. First, there are tares growing in every field. There are those who miss the point in every church, ministry and denomination. I have heard concern over ministries like Samaritan's Purse because of high paid leadership. I also know of the on-the-ground passion of Ed and Arita Lemas as they disciple tens of thousands of children through their ministry with Samaritan's Purse. While I can't exactly tell the wheat from the tares (not in my pay grade) I know what I see and I know what is happening on the ground. While I am here I will support Ed and Arita's ministry, knowing that tares grow in all parts of our ministries. Let's stop the talk and focus on what God is doing ... let the wheat and the tares grow together!
Second, I have learned that we will drive ourselves crazy trying to separate the wheat from the tares. People who have been vital to the work of the Church have disappointed me. People I would have placed in the category of tares have pleasantly surprised me. I have decided I am totally inadequate at figuring out who will ultimately be (long-term) the most effective in God's work. So I encourage them all to jump in and see what God will do. Because the old song of forgiveness is true ... "With arms wide open, He'll pardon you, it is no secret, what God can do!" Let God's plans play out ... and let the wheat grow with the tares.
Finally, our 'categorizing' people into wheat and tares gets dangerously close to playing God. I have learned that I should leave things that are God's to God. Jesus said (regarding the Roman coin) "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's (Matthew 22:21)." We sometimes forget that ministries, churches and (especially) people are God's. We do the best we can to be discerning, efficient, productive ... all good things ... but we must never forget that God's plan is the point. We must ask ourselves "Is God's work and mission being accomplished, sometimes in spite of flawed people and 'tares'?" I say, let the wheat grow with the tares ... God will sort it all out in the end ... "das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten." As Forrest Gump said, "That's all I got to say!" Randy