“If I kick out my devils, my angels might leave.” – Iggy Pop
I once heard a preacher say that we should deal with our sins like we are weeding a garden. What I think he meant was that we should be diligent in plucking out the weeds one by one. We ought to constantly be looking for anything that isn’t what we want to cultivate, and we ought to rip it out. I agree that we ought to approach sin like weeding a garden, but I think that we need to reevaluate how we weed our gardens.
Let me explain…
Most people I know charge into their garden with pesticide. They take these chemicals that are formulated to kill off the weeds, but let the plants grow, and they spray them all over everything. And the chemicals do their job. Don’t get me wrong. These chemicals will choke down every single unwanted weed in your garden, and they will allow your vegetables to grow up big and strong. This is especially true if you use them in conjunction with a few chemical fertilizers.
So now we’ve got no weeds, and we’ve got giant tomatoes…what on earth could my left-wing hippie mind find wrong with that? Well, if you have to ask, then you obviously don’t know any left-wing hippies…we can find something wrong with anything.
Here’s the problem:
Most of the weeds we have killed are medicinal or are better for food than the plants we are putting in their place. The lambs quarters you sprayed down and ripped up are way better for you than the spinach you planted in their place. And the chemicals we spray on the weeds are now in our food. The soil we are growing the plants in has been monocropped for so long that it has no nutrients left. The chemical fertilizer we sprinkle on the ground will make the plants grow, but it won’t give back those nutrients. So, we can make perfect little flavorless, nutrient-free tomatoes that look nice on the vine, but that beyond that will do nothing but cause heartburn and cancer.
several thousand years ago…
this hippie named Jesus said that a plant is known by its fruit.
So, what if we are doing something very similar in our churches today? What if we are monocropping in dead soil? What if we are spraying down and ripping up weeds that might just be better for us than the plants we are trying to force to grow? What if the fertilizer we are putting down is just making pretty fruits that are flavorless and devoid of nutrition? What if these fruits that we are growing look perfect on the outside, but they’re really causing heartburn and cancer?
I would argue that this is exactly what we are doing. We are monocropping in dead soil. Our denominational politics are seeing to it that nobody with a different viewpoint can speak up in any church. When they do, they are sent out to find a church where people agree with the things they are saying. This is not good for the people, and it is not good for the the churches. It turns churches into echo chambers in which everyone sings the same tune, or at least they learn to fake it really well.
We are spraying down and ripping up weeds that are better for us than what we are trying to grow. We discourage questioning, doubt, and ambiguity in favor of answers, facts, and rules. By doing so we cram God into a box. Anytime God climbs out of that box, we explain it away. If we are in a “spirit” church, and something intellectual comes along that challenges our thinking, we chalk it up to the devil making those who claim to be wise into fools. And if we are in a more reformed, cessationist church, then when the Spirit shows up we say, “um…excuse me…can you go sit in the back…it’s just that we have an order of worship here, and you make it difficult to stay on task…” Sometimes it is the very thing that challenges the core of all the we believe and cling to that we ought to be embracing.
And this fertilizer we put down is making pretty fruit that is empty. We study all the books that affirm our beliefs. We listen to music that always has an uplifting message. We say things like, “scripture interprets scripture.” But what we really mean is that the scriptures we believe are used to interpret the scriptures we don’t really believe. Everything is set up so that what we are growing in is pure, bright, white, and clean. And we produce fruit that is as bland and flavorless as those genetically modified, chemically grown tomatoes.
In actuality what makes a real, delicious, nutritious fruit is something completely different. We take heirloom seeds, passed down from generation to generation. Seeds that have seen abundance, but also drought. Seeds that have survived through good times and through times when it looked like those seeds could never grow. And we put them in soil that is full of death and decay. Soil that is mixed in with rotten, decaying, used up things. These are the things that give the soil its substance. The things that have been sacrificed. We give them pure water and bright sunshine.
And sometimes we pray for rain.
And there are “weeds” we allow to grow. We mix flowers in amongst the plants. We don’t put things in straight lines, because that’s what the predators are looking for. We let things be messy and sloppy, and not technically correct. And the fruit we produce may be ugly. It may have lumps and dark spots. It may have a place where a worm had lunch. So be it. Cut it off, and enjoy the rest!
This imperfectly perfect fruit will be the greatest you have ever tasted. It will give you life which springs forth out of death. It will give you joy that springs out of the pain of labor. It will surprise you. It will shock you. It will leave you standing in gape-mouthed wonder at the beautiful flavors that can come from something so plain.
But it will never…