Thursday, December 15, 2016

Advent, Day 19: Chicago

But when [John the Baptist] saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ 

- Matthew 3:7-12

Wheat and chaff. Sheep and goats. Good and evil. Clean and dirty. High and low. Light and darkness.

Dualism. As we seek to make sense of our world, we indulge all too frequently in the notion that things are either one way or the other. Inclusion or exclusion ... now or never ... two-party system ... win or lose.

It's a stark rhetorical device, splitting the whole world into two categories. But is it true?

What if the truth is more complex? What if I have both wheat and chaff in me?

Jesus told his disciples a parable once about wheat and weeds. When we find weeds among the wheat, we want to pull them so they don't kill the wheat. "No," says Jesus. "Let them grow together. God will sort them out later."

We don't get to decide who lives or dies. When we do, we go against God's purposes. We allow the weeds to grow within us.

Some people live their lives boldly and with no regrets. They don't care who they hurt. Others spend their whole lives feeling sorry for themselves. Most of us, though, fall into both categories at one time or another.

Never ask the question, "Am I evil?" Of course you are. You are also infinitely good, and God loves you. You will not be discarded. You are not 100% chaff. However, the chaff in you will someday be burned up. It'll probably hurt a lot. And it will heal you.

Here's a song about regretting past sins and finding that God is redeeming us and giving us the strength to live on.

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