During Bible college and seminary days we were taught to recite Scripture like cowboys in a fast draw contest: John 3:16; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9. I made a painful discovery in my journey—wherever the most Scripture was preached was the least amount of Agape! One day while watching the news, a reporter was interviewing a person in line to see the movie The Last Temptation of Christ when a middle-aged woman walked up to him. The camera swung around to capture a close up of her contorted face screaming, “If you go in that movie, you’re going to hell!” Although I did not advocate the movie, this awful thought swept over me: I’d rather go to the movie with him than go to church with her!
As evangelicals, we have not been taught to listen; we have been taught the biblical fast draw. A man once said, “I quoted Scripture to my wife and I didn’t see her for two weeks—because my eyes were swollen shut.” I hope that all of us have learned enough to not quote Scripture to our spouse and children! In the Gospels, the Pharisees always had their hands on their guns; Jesus had His in His bag of Seed.
The more we are taught Scripture, the more loaded guns we carry. We start with a BB gun, then we need a shotgun, then our memory verses are like two pistols. Sheriffs that are more serious get a Glock Nine with fourteen rounds in the chamber so they can straighten out the world with Bible verses. When Jesus was being arrested in the Garden, Peter whipped out his sword cutting off the soldier’s ear. All of us have cut off a few ears in our time. I used memory verses like two pearl-handled six guns. Then the Lord asked me, “Are the Scriptures bullets, or are they seeds?”
The answer to this question determines whether we see ourselves as a sheriff or a gardener. A sheriff tries to keep everybody straight; a gardener lets the tares and weeds grow with the wheat allowing God to sort out the good from the worthless. City dwellers demand tare-free fields, but farmers know this is not possible. Every church has tares. There is no pure church—just real church with real people and real problems. A sign in the doctor’s office said, “Please do not exchange symptoms, it confuses the doctor.” If you have three people attending church, you have six problems because they not only have their own problems, but they get together with others and combine problems to make new ones.
The church suffers badly from evangelical sheriffs. To the sheriff, judgment will be merciless because he has shown no mercy. I have been the sheriff on too many occasions. We need government, but it must be tempered with mercy. Unfortunately, many new Christians who were recently filled with the love of God often encounter a church full of gun-slingers. If we could learn how to bless and not curse and allow our Bible verses to produce fruit in ourselves, we would soon learn to share the love of an eternal Father with a hurting world. God intends for us to be gardeners showing compassion and mercy.
v Have you been taught to memorize and recite Bible verses to hurting people? What was the result?
v Explain why we need to allow the weeds to grow with the wheat.
v Why would a sheriff want to see immediate change while a gardener would want to show mercy?