The Lectionary this past Sunday was Matthew’s report of Jesus’ parable of the weeds:
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.
“The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’ ‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered. The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’
“But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvesttime I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Matthew 13, Common English Bible.
Also this week was a lively conversation on the United Methodist Preacher’s Network, a nearly 1,000-strong group of UM clergy on Facebook. They were talking about interfaith issues (specifically the Faith Shared Alliance) and how to work with other faiths who deny the truth claimed by the Christian faith.
My take is that Matthew 13 says that the gardeners and tillers are *not* to separate the weeds from the wheat. That is left to the harvesters (not the Dune kind, like the picture). Judgement is reserved for the harvester of what is kept and what is burned up.
To me religious tolerance is about reserving judgment to the harvester. We can till, we can garden, we can nurture, we can argue about whose wheat is the wheatiest…but judgment of what is fruitless and what is fruitful is left to One greater than us.
This is not a denial or endorsement of an exclusive Christology, it is an acknowledgement that God is sovereign in this area. I’ve reflected on this before when we talked about Rob Bell.
I wonder what role those who would not support working with other faiths on equal ground consider themselves to be: gardeners or harvesters? The ones who do God’s work or perform God’s judgment?