I have long since discovered that the circumstances of an event in no way condition my attentiveness to them. I can be reading the best book and still nod off. I have fallen asleep on the most entertaining of speakers. No matter how close to the edge of my seat a show may lead me, it’s not uncommon to find myself waking up the next morning wondering how it ended. I always pass judgment on the disciples for falling asleep on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He and I both know how often I have repeated their folly.
I posed the question here yesterday about how to stop evil without becoming evil. This was a question generated by my study of the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat. (If you’re not familiar with the text, see my previous post.) No one would contest the fact that there is evil in the world–we see it in every new’s medium, and occassionally confront it on our own hearts.
So how should disciples of Jesus live, those who for the present struggle with life in the tension of the is and not yet kingdom reality? How do they respond to evil?
One response formulated by the parable is obvious: Understand that evil is for God and His agents to judge. Know that there is a coming judgment.
That comforts me. Yet within the whole counsel of truth, I understand that I don’t just exist for my own comfort. So, the parable begs another question: Do I sit back with no response to evil just because I know that judgment is coming for those who do evil? Furthermore, the parable has an omnious warning: The wheat and weeds can look identical. In fact, if not carefully discerned, the weeds would be harvested by a farmer and he would not know it until the weeds molded his flour.
The careful reader–and the respondent disciple–must take this warning seriously. Kingdom living in the not yet fully present kingdom requires alertfulness. Note carefully, Matthew 13:25–
But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went away.
Parables teach us about the kingdom, so I don’t believe that this is in reference to a physical sleep–but a spiritual sleep; a drowzy approach to life that the apostles frequently warn against in the New Testament writings. I believe the church, especially in America, has fallen into a it-can-never-happen-to-us induced coma.
I’m not usually one for doom and gloom. Yet I have been reproached by the Spirit this week for my own casualness. I have been watching the ticker tape of prophetic warnings go unnoticed by many church leaders. The weight of this is such, that I feel compelled to speak up…even if at the risk of you thinking I’m becoming theatrical. Trust me, I don’t want to be this messenger. I like California Casual; where it’s “all good” and everyone goes with the flow.
It’s easy to get sleepy. It’s dangerous to mistake our circumstances wrongly. Maybe we think that because we’re going to church on Sunday, or helping the poor, or we’re a leader in the church that we’re all doing everything right. That all the problems belong to those weeds–the other guys. We get sleepy with our standards for ourselves–we justify, we rationalize, sometimes we might even spin the truth to make sure that no one wakes up to what’s really going on. And while God’s men sleep, the enemy plants seeds.
So what do we do?
1) Identify where you are prone to sleepiness. In discussion with my dear friends on Friday we made a list of our own areas of apathy–those things/conditions in life that lull us into a false sense of safety or immunity. We included pride & arrogance, comfortability, busyness, luxuries, self-righteousness, and rationalization. How about you?
2) Get alert! Listen to emphatic exhortation of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians:
While they are saying “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of the light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober…But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. ~I Thessalonians 5:3-8
Don’t get me wrong: I do proclaim the sovereignty of God. I do trust in His coming judgment. I am confident that He will one day set right all that is wrong. But these truths cannot be responded to passively. They ought to wake us up! Call us to action! Judgment is not ours…but we ought to live as those who will be judged.
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. ~I Thessalonians 5:14-15
Whatever you do, dear friend, don’t doze off! I need you to be awake; to help me stay alert. For the sake of one another, we all need to have our eyes wide open.
Are you sleepy?