“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do you understand all these things?” Matthew 13:47-51
I watched the first season of “The Chosen” a few weeks ago. I highly recommend this series. I thoroughly enjoyed every episode, and I must say the show made the people who populate the New Testament seem like, well, real people with real problems, hopes, and dreams. (I especially liked John the Baptist!) In one episode, Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net, gathering all kinds of people the way a net gathers all kinds of fish. I’ve read that comparison at least a dozen times in my life, but this time it stuck. This time, when I heard the words, I actually comprehended them.
This comparison of God’s Kingdom to a net is similar to a better-known comparison—at least to me—in which the Kingdom of Heaven is like a field of wheat in which an enemy sowed weeds that resembled wheat but were not. This passage is in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew too.
Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
I’ve always felt a little miffed that church people and ministers, on the whole, aren’t better than they are. Don’t say it—the obvious. Don’t say, Aren’t you a church person, Lisa? Aren’t you part of Jesus’s church—the body of Christ—if you believe? Aren’t you a minister too? Isn’t each and every Christian a minister? Yes, of course…but still…
It is super difficult not to measure people who espouse virtues against the tall ruler of virtuousness. It’s hard not to judge people who are always talking about what is right when they do something wrong. And let’s face it, Christians often do bad things with panache. The bane of Christians everywhere is that we are judged as a group for every one of us who doesn’t meet expectations, and that happens all the time. Everywhere.
And we judge one another just as harshly, eyeballing our spiritual siblings to no end to see how they measure up.
After hearing Jesus’s parable about the net spoken by Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays him, I had to ask myself why my expectations are so out of sync with God’s. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Land of Whosoever Will. Who am I to try and sort these people out before the time is ripe for sorting. Who am I to try and sort them out at all?
Who am I to judge?
Who am I to expect anything other than the mixed bag the Lord said the Kingdom of Heaven would be?
Maybe you’re like me, wondering why church congregations don’t look much different from the rest of the world. Maybe you’ve even laid off hanging out with other believers because of the ones who drive you up the everloving wall. Well, newsflash: That situation is not likely to change.
We may as well make peace with one another, forgive one another (early and often, as Jesus told Peter to do), and get on with it. We have work to do before it’s time to go to the barn.