How do we understand and react to the nature of evil both in the world and in ourselves? This is among the more challenging questions found in scripture. It points out immediately, our tendency to more quickly identify evil externally than to address it in ourselves. We will always be more lenient with ourselves, giving greater latitude to our "good intentions" while forgetting to put the best construction on the words and behavior of others.
But Christians are called to both recognize and address evil to preserve and demonstrate God's intention. Jesus cautioned his followers to be aware of how evil works in the world and to avoid naivety, which only allows evil greater space in which to function. How can churches address the result of sin and evil in the world, without coming across as "better than", "holier than thou" or judgmental?
Jesus' parable of the wheat and the weeds addresses not only the reason why evil is presenting itself in the world, but also the battle that is taking place (like it or not) at the ground level for resources in the "soil".
From Claiming the Corner, chapter 2:
"Where weeds grow, crops die. Weeds take the resources of water and nutrients; weeds take space. In the previous parable about the good soil, Jesus told us that where there are weeds already growing, the good seed will be choked out. This is the clearest teaching in the New Testament about the reality and nature of evil. Jesus addresses the origin of evil, but also, important to the false dichotomy we described a moment ago, Jesus explains how the fact of evil in the world is not mutually exclusive with a good, loving, and all-powerful God. Jesus also tells us plainly in this parable the reason why our good God has not simply removed evil from the world. God has delayed his judgment –– the pulling up of the weeds –– because some wheat would be destroyed in the process. And here is where each of us are required to be honest with one another and ourselves. Evil has been sown into our hearts too. Weeds are growing here, in me. If God applied the weed killer today, I would not survive. Would you? Therefore, from this parable we understand that an evil kingdom is growing alongside the good Kingdom of God. Here is the key to understanding the parable: both kingdoms are increasing. The Kingdom of God and the counter-kingdom of God’s enemy are both growing and increasing at the same time and in the same location. The wheat and the weeds are always in the mix whenever human beings are involved –– the work of God and the influence of sin. It is also very difficult to separate the two in the lives of people, as Jesus makes so abundantly clear in this parable. Even the angels would get it wrong! All that is true on the macro level, but it is also true on the micro level in my own life. God’s good purposes are on the increase in the parts of my life where his seed is growing. In the parts of my life that are not yet fully submitted to God, evil is at work and growing. For that to stop, evil must be confronted where it grows! That is how we can apply this parable to understand Jesus’ mandate to the church on the ground today, on the very corner where your church is planted. The Church must actively confront evil in our day."
In Claiming the Corner, church leaders are encouraged to make a list of the evidence of evil in their communities, anticipating how Christians are positioned to fight the encroachment of things in the world that are not submitted to Kingdom values. What would be on your list?