In order to avoid any confusion, I want to start out by clarifying what I mean when I use the term "Church". I am not talking about a brick and mortar building or any other physical building for that matter. I also am not talking about a group of people who simply gather together and call themself a church or align themselves with a particular group that claims to be The Church. I am going to step out on a limb here and say that just because an organization claims it is The Church does not make it so. I could claim to be rich, I could claim to be famous, I could claim to be a doctor or a lawyer but my claim does not make it true. I have to prove it by meeting certain criteria. This is true of the Church and indeed Christianity as well.
Just as I wrote those words, the phrase, "The proof is in the pudding" came to mind. A quick search reavealed that this phrase is actually a shortened version of "All the proof of a pudding is in the eating". When we hear the word "proof" we generally think of providing evidence to support a statement, action or belief. However, there is a more archaic defintion which we often do not think about. It means to test to see if it is good or true. We see this in words like "proof-read" or "proving-ground". Back in the olden days at least, a photographer would give the customer proofs of the pictures from which the customer would select the pictures they wanted the photographer to print. When I bake bread, the first step is to disolve sugar or honey into warm water, add the yeast and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I am proving the yeast or testing it to make sure the yeast is good. If it is good, it will foam. If it does not bubble and foam it is no good and I must throw it out unless I want flat bread!
This past week, I heard about two rulings in nations that traditionally have been considered "Christian" which broke my heart. These countries are not exclusive in their actions. The Early Church faced the issue of people from within seeking to redefine Christianity and the Church continues to deal with that issue today. The Early Church had their beliefs challenged by society and the same is true today. We should not be surprised by this. The Early Church struggled with the threat of being absorbed (and ruled) by Rome and the Church of today struggles against being governed by man instead of by God. It is not a new battle but it is still grievious for the attackers not only to be people who profess to be Christians but also be those who call themselves ministers of the Gospel who not only applaud those who challenge and belittle the Word of God but do it themselves!
Do I believe the Church is under attack? Yes I do. We are only fooling ourselves if we believe there has ever been a time when the Church was not under attack. It's just that sometimes it has been more covert than at other times.
Brothers and sisters, we must not forget that it is the fire of oppression and persecution that sparked the spread of the Gospel to the point that Acts 17 tells us that in Thessalonica it was said that Paul and Silas were the men who had turned the world upside down. Fire either consumes and destroys us or it purifies us and gets us moving!
Today I have been thinking a lot about the parable of the tares and the wheat. If you are not familiar with this parable, you can find it recorded in the thirteenth chaper of Matthew. Tares often gets translated as "weeds" but in studying this parable, I learned that Jesus was not talking about just any old weed. The word used is "zizanion" (Strong's Greek 2215) which means zizanium, a type of rye grass. It is a grass that grows in Palestine that is described as being "spurious (not genuine, sincere, or authentic) wheat". It may look like wheat but it is not wheat and in fact, it is worthless.
For a season, the master allowed the tares to grow with the wheat, lest the wheat be damaged. However, the day of reckoning came at harvest time. First the tares were gathered and burned. Then and only then could the wheat be harvested and stored safely in the master's barn.
There is no middle ground. Either we are a Christian or we are not. If we are a Christian, we follow Christ and we stand firmly upon the Word of God believing it to be just that... the Word of God. It is always true. It does not change. It is never out-dated. It does not contradict itself. Why? Because what God says is always true, He does not change, He is never out-dated and He does not contradict Himself.
As we move closer and closer to the day of reckoning when we will all stand before God's judgement seat, the difference between "tares and the wheat" will become more and more apparent. The question we must ask ourselves is, which are we? In the natural sense, a tare cannot be transformed into wheat but with God, all things are possible and a tare can be born again.
We must stand firm and hold onto that which we know to be right and true. We must be bearers of the Light of the World in a world that is growing ever darker. We must not be afraid to declare that which is true, regardless of the cost and above all, we must pray.
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Well said and clearly blogged for your blog sets out the situation that we face today for only the spirit of God can contend with this army of deceivers for we wrestle not with flesh of blood but the unseen forces from the middle heaven.
"We must pray." Yes!
Thank you K - interesting and important point on how the worthless tares looked deceptively like wheat; I've learnt something here which brings much more meaning to the story.
Wow! What a revealing and important blog! I really appreciate your research on the "tares". Maturity is the most telling characteristic of the wheat-- and with maturity comes boldness to speak out against wickedness and sin even when it appears within and outside of the Church.