He balled up his fist like a gavel and pounded on the old wooden pulpit like an almighty judge. He listed the depravities of popular culture and swore they were signs of Christ’s imminent return. This is the narcissism I grew up in.
MATTHEW 13:24-30 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Bemoan the downward spiral of TV programming and what we’re really saying is that TV shows have degraded morally in this country since I was a kid. Lament the divorce rate as evidence of the world’s decay and what we’re really saying is more people are divorcing in America today than they did when we were growing up. By “the world” we mean where we live, during our lifetime. This is narcissism.
But America is not the world. And my lifetime is merely a blip in history.
Perspective may be the greatest benefit of reading beyond our place and time. Take the bible, for instance.
Cain killed his brother out of jealousy. Noah was the only righteous man left on a flooded planet. Abraham lied his wife into another man’s harem. Tamar pretended to be a prostitute so she could have sex with her father-in-law and give birth to his child. And we’re not even out of Genesis yet!
I never thought all those music history classes in college would come in handy, but what do you know? Sex was part of popular music long before Elvis shook his pelvis. Wealthy nobles in Italy and France commissioned composers to write ditties about raping peasant women. There were songs about masturbation, beastiality and incest…all long before America was even a dream.
And what about murder? 16 million African slaves killed in the Atlantic slave trade before 1807, 20 million killed by Stalin before 1953, 20 million killed in the Taiping Rebellion in China before 1864, 25 million killed in the fall of the Ming Dynasty before 1662, 40 million killed by Genghis Khan before 1227, 65 million killed in the Second World War…lives have been taken by the millions for centuries and all over the globe.
The weeds have been around a long time – blooming first in the Garden from the seed of our disobedience. They migrate here and there, come and go from this place and that, but their overall global influence isn’t provably greater now than at any other time in history.
And the wheat?
Korea is proof that wheat still reaches upward despite the weeds. Compassion International invented child sponsorship there – beginning with a handful of orphaned boys and girls in 1951. But today South Korea is not a sponsored country in Compassion’s program. It is a sponsoring country. The wheat has grown strong there. The weeds have retreated and established themselves elsewhere…like in Nicaragua, where I spent last week – now the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere behind Haiti.
But who knows, if we keep watering, what God will grow there someday?
To say the world is getting worse is to think narcissistically, to reason as if ignorant of history, and to doubt the promise of God.
The wheat will not be overpowered. It will grow. And so will the weeds. Until the end.
Until then, don’t despair. And keep watering!