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The tares.

The Church of Christ on the earth, being a spiritual kingdom by its nature, of course, has a visible form of existence, for it consists of people embodied in temporal flesh. Unfortunately, not everyone accepts Christian faith by internal conviction and with the desire to follow God's will in everything. Some people become Christians by force of circumstance, e.g., they follow a common example or unconsciously, after having been baptized by parents in childhood. Others, though taking the path of salvation with a sincere desire to serve God, weaken in their zeal after a while and begin to surrender to their previous sins and vices. Due to these reasons, the Church of Christ may include (and in fact often does) quite a few people who commit bad things and sin manifestly. Of course, their exceptionable conduct engenders criticism and casts a shadow onto the entire Church of Christ, which they belong to formally.

In His parable of the tares, the Lord speaks of the deplorable fact that, in this temporary life, the faithful and righteous members of God's Kingdom cohabit with disgraceful members, whom the Lord calls the 'sons of the evil one' as opposed to the 'Sons of the Kingdom'. Below is the Evangelist Matthew's record of this parable:

"The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (Mt. 13:24-30).

In this parable, the tares are to be understood both as temptations in ecclesiastical life, as well as people of irreverent and non-Christian behavior. The history of the Church is full of events that could not have come from God, e.g., heresies, ecclesiastical distempers and schisms, religious persecutions, parish hassles and intrigues, and provocative acts of people who sometimes held prominent or even leading positions in the Church. Seeing it, a man far from the spiritual life would be ready to throw a stone of accusation at the Church and the very teaching of Christ.

In this parable the Lord shows us the actual origin of all acts of darkness, the devil. Were we to have spiritual sight, we would see that there exist real, evil persons, called demons, who relentlessly and insidiously push people towards all things evil, cunningly playing with human weaknesses and manipulating them. According to this parable, the instruments of this invisible evil power people are not innocent: "But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares," i.e., the devil has a chance to influence men because they do not keep vigil.

Why doesn't God destroy the people who do evil? The parable says, 'lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them', which means that the sons of the Kingdom, the good members of the Church, should not be hurt while the sinners are being punished. The relations between people in this life are interconnected as closely as roots of plants that grow together in a field. People are tied together by multiple family and social links; they depend on each other. A deplorable drunkard and lecher, can be a caring father for righteous children; the welfare of honest workers may rest in the hands of a sordid and rough master; a disbelieving ruler may be a wise law-maker, beneficial for his subjects. Had the Lord punished all and every sinner without distinction, then the entire order of life on the earth would inevitably collapse and hurt some good people who depend on those sinners (children of a sinful parent, for example). Moreover, it often happens that an errant member of the Church suddenly after a life shock or event improves himself, becoming wheat from tares. History holds many cases of 'modi vivendi' ending up in this way: Manasseh, an Old Testament king, the Apostle Paul, the Saint Prince Vladimir and others. It should be remembered that in this life no one is doomed for perdition; everyone has a chance to repent and save his soul. Only when the full count of one's years runs down does the 'harvest' come, the day to reckon the past.

The parable of the tares teaches us to be watchful, i.e., to watch our spiritual condition carefully and not to rely on our righteousness, lest the devil take advantage of our carelessness and sow sinful wishes into us. At the same time, the parable of the tares teaches us to have an understanding attitude towards the life of the church, and to remember that negative things are yet inevitable in this temporary life. Has there ever been wheat without any tares? But as the tares have nothing in common with the wheat, so the spiritual Kingdom of God has nothing in common with the evil which may occur inside the church wall. Not everyone in the parish roster, bearing the name of a Christian, does in fact belong to the Church of Christ.

The Kingdom of God does not only contain a teaching, for people to accept by faith. It has a great and grace-filled power, able to transform the entire world of a human soul. It is this internal power of His Kingdom that the Lord speaks about in the next parable of <see next chapter>

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