Tag Archives: Proper 11a

Creation in trouble

As we work our way through Romans, each new section takes us a little further and opens up a new section of the Christian landscape. Reading Romans 8:12-25 this week does just that. We have been reminded of God’s grace, which reached out to us long before we were ready, and rescues us by grace, through faith. It is not about our being “good enough”, or even ready. It is by our trusting Jesus and what he has done for us, and accepting his gift.

Paul has talked in detail about how that does not mean a freedom to misbehave. We have to “choose our team”, as I suggested a couple of weeks ago. Now he will describe Christian life in a different way.


“ For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”

Rom 8.14

Children are part of the family, they have a place of their own. They look to their father – in Roman society, very much the head of the family. They will learn, and grow in understanding and maturity. But they are still children. This is a picture of Christian life we can understand and learn from. We are glad to be accepted, to have our place, and the expectation of more to come. At the same time, there is the Father to look up to, much to learn, and the routine of family life to deal with. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, and not slaves. Slaves have no freedom, no expectation, no place.

Children, as they get older, look forward to inheriting the good things the family has built up. But the thought that we share inheritance with Jesus reminds Paul that we are likely to share his suffering before we come to the glory of heaven. Indeed, he talks of the way the whole creation is not working as it should. Now that we understand more about Climate Change, this may be easier to grasp. There is something wrong, not just with the way humans “naturally” behave wrongly, but with the way everything works. Many “natural” disasters have human causes – from people living in dangerous places because no place is made for them elsewhere, to droughts caused by deforestation and poor farming practice. We need to take all this seriously, and take what action we can. Climate Change is our responsibility, and needs our action to control it urgently. Yet even if all that is done, there remains an awareness that creation is somehow distorted, bent out of God’s pattern.

Fortunately, there is still more. God’s children look beyond a world where Climate Change is limited, where corruption and injustice are dealt with. We look forward to something new, not just repaired. We hope for a life not yet available. We search for the fulfillment of a plan we know is good and wonderful – but the detail is still awaited. We have to hope, because it is not yet seen, or fully known. But the hope is confident, because we have seen and understood what God has already done, and seen where it is leading.

Tolerance and Discrimination

Strange how public morality goes; you can apparently choose your faith, lifestyle and sexuality freely, but you must be tolerant.  In much the same way, you can belong to any group or subculture, but must not discriminate.  The rightness of tolerance and the wrongness of discrimination are seldom argued, just demanded.  At the same time, the popular press make the practical limits of toleration clear – rich fraudsters, terrorists and paedophiles are beyond the pale.  And we all know how to discriminate between a good workman and a “cowboy”, or a real friend and a gossip.

So, will you be shocked if you look in the Bible for these words?  Tolerance is not found in traditional translations (only, of God, in Romans 2:4 Good News Bible), discrimination not at all.  Why?  I suggest that, while there are some similar ideas, the concepts are not quite right for Christians.  Why not?  This weeks gospel parable (Matthew 13:24-43, leaving out vv31-35) may help.

The story of the wheat and weeds is about tolerance and discrimination – of a sort.  Wheat was, and is, an important food.  The weeds in this story are not a nuisance or something that spoils the picture, but darnel, a plant that looks very similar to wheat, but is host to a dangerous, poisonous fungus.  Jesus is suggesting that in human life, and that includes Church congregations, good and bad people are mixed.  We should not try to sort them out, because of damaging the wheat, because we can’t reliably tell the difference, (and because people, unlike plants, can repent.)  That’s not to say “anything goes”, in Church, or in society!  We need to help people sort themselves out – but we shall never gather a perfect group.  There will always be those in process – and those who resist God, but pretend.  There is a place, if not for tolerance, at least for patience and love, and for letting God do the final sorting out.  (We lack the qualification!).

At the same time, there is talk of a division at harvest time.  The harvesters will be under orders how to discriminate into just two categories.  No discrimination?  Well, you can’t tell wheat from darnel until the ear appears just before harvest (wheat turns golden brown and bends over, darnel seed darkens and stays upright), so no premature judgements.  But if “no discrimination” means “nobody can tell me I’m doing wrong” that doesn’t include God!

The idea of being tolerant and not discriminating is one of those half-Christian confusions which can obscure the faith of Jesus.  We don’t want to be intolerant and discriminatory – nothing Christian in that!  Letting him tell the story, and listening carefully, should save us getting it wrong.