Following on the heels of Tim Challies, Michael ‘iMonk’ Spencer has truly outdone himself with a beautiful metaphor that I wish I could just steal and claim as my own. Weed eaters.
There’s nothing quite as empowering to a middle school boy as to be given a weed-eater of his very own. Armed with the machine, safety glasses and an orientation, they come marching across the campus taking on weeds and untrimmed grass like Sherman’s march to the sea.
If there was ever any tentativeness in these weed-eating workers, it all vanishes when they get their first taste of the power of the weed-eater. With a squeeze of the trigger, the power to eliminate weeds replaces the fear of what might happen in using such a dangerous device. Lazy middle school boys are transformed into the scourge of weeds and untidy lawns everywhere.
As I read the article, I can remember my own days as a freshman at a Christian college, incredulous that there could even be a Young Democrats chapter at a Christian college. What an oxymoron, right? And the zeal with which I argued and debated friends and rivals, alike, on the evils of alcohol – because teatotalling is right next to godliness. And the folks who believed in anything other than literal 6-day, young earth creationism? Make way, you godless heathens, wolves in sheep’s clothing!
There is, unfortunately, a not so charming side effect of this transformation. In the ensuing attack on weeds and sidewalk scruffiness of all kinds, most of the other flora and fauna of the campus is put at some risk from overenthusiastic weed warriors.
So in addition to a tidy campus and well attended faculty and staff lawns, there are frequent attacks on flower beds, gardens and much loved decorative hedges and bushes. Small fences are no obstacle to a boy convinced that some stray sprig of wayward grass is attempting to survive the Day of the Weed-eater.
Flowers and other decorative plants are at real risk when the power of a gang of boys go out into the neighborhood to do good. They are armed and dangerous. The neighborhood will be improved.
Zealousness is not at issue, which I believe sometimes I (and other writers at CRN.Info) am mistaken to be against. We are called to have zeal for the Lord and to do His work with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Where that becomes a problem is when we start assuming the place of God, in judging the hearts of others, or the Holy Spirit, in convicting them. We may effectively ‘whack some weeds’, but who knows how many beneficial plants we damage in the process.
Spencer acknowledges this dark side of ‘zeal’ -
So as I get older, I see many of my zealous brothers and sisters armed with the Bible, heading out into the church to do what they believe is a good work of killing weeds.
The results are predictably predictable.
Be less enthralled with your ability to trim the grass brothers, friends. Be less certain that you are qualified to tell the difference between a weed and a flower that has yet to bloom. Learn to use your power equipment carefully. You can do a lot of damage. All does not depend on you cutting down every unknown and out of place plant. You are not saving us from the arrival of the jungle.
And this is where I often find myself. Reminded of Jesus’ admonition to serve and to love his bride – even the parts I may not personally like. In a place of a concerned steward protecting gardens and flower beds from undiscerning, yet possibly well-intentioned youths, armed with their shiny new weed-eaters.
It was the Pharisees that Jesus criticized for their weed-eater mentality. They were obsessed with separation. They were tithing their spices. They were experts in staying on the case until the weeds were revealed.
Jesus wants us to be gardeners, but we do have to deal with weeds. Did any gardener ever say “Let the weeds grow” except for Jesus?
Some of us have set our sights (sites) on being full-time weed eaters and we’re having a very good time. The body of Christ needs a few. But only a few. And be careful, please. Very careful.
And I would wholeheartedly agree. This is why we support true, professional discernment ministries like Reasons to Believe, Christian Research Institute, and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. While we recognize that these ministries may not always agree with one another, nor always we with them, they are managed by Christians who understand that there’s a place for weed eaters, and there’s a place for more careful trimming.