On Changed Lives in a Natural Environment
In Matthew chapter 13 Jesus tells a parable where a farmer goes out and plants seed. Before the days of machinery and combines farmers actually went out and did this by hand. Imagine a person with a big bag of seed that is being tossed out handful by handful. Much of the seed does not fall on any place where it can be viable enough to produce or even grow, but some does fall on good soil where there is enough light, nutrients, and water that it can grow strong and produce much.
It is the seed in the good soil that illustrates the concept of natural change. The idea is that left to its own devices, the seed can take root and grow with little more than what God provides naturally. Do you know anyone who has made a dramatic turn in life with little or no guidance? Often we will see those who have grownup in Christian homes as those who seem to lack that dramatic experience of salvation, but more grew into the love of Christ that had already permeated their world. The water, sunlight, and nutrients may have been loving parents, regular church attendance, and supportive mentors.
When farmers survey their work, they are not likely to spend much time on those plants that are in poor environments and therefore do not fair well. However when we are talking about people in our world, we are not so likely to want to consider giving them up as lost (consider Matthew 18:10-14).
What about the rest of those seeds? Interesting that Jesus does not spend time sending a commission at this point and enlist people to rescue those seedlings that are struggling for survival, but he certainly does not say that we should not. There is much talk about people who have lived with abusive fathers and their difficulty in relating to a God that is largely referred to as male. Many people have been cheated and lied to by people who call themselves followers of Jesus. In the news are Catholic priests in handcuffs because they have been molesting hundreds of boys over decades while bishops turned their backs.
Many seeds are sown and try to grow in this environment we call our American culture. If we are able to reach these people we are going to have to invest much time and energy in them. This is not a calling for the faint-of-heart, but requires genuine relationship, authenticity, and tolerance for the inevitable criticism that our religion so strongly deserves considering these experiences. We have to be willing to admit that as people who are followers of Christ we are not perfect, and that many devastating mistakes have been made in the name of the One we serve.
And we have to learn to love people for who they are and not only for who they may become. As any plant, nurturing takes time and much has to be left up to God to bring the rain, sunlight, and nutrients that are essential for life. Nurturing takes patience and tending with no guarantee that there will be a harvest.
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