Jesus tells a story about a farmer who scatters seed, and most of it goes to waste. Some of it falls on a path and never sprouts, some of it falls among rocks and can’t grow, some of it grows among weeds and gets choked out. Only a little bit falls in good soil and bears fruit. (Mt. 13)
The strange piece is that Jesus then says that this happens on purpose. He quotes the Hebrew Bible and says that God makes this happens so that some people just won’t figure things out. Jesus tells his message hidden in parables so that, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” They don’t understand his parables, which fall like seed on bad soil.
A friend asked me recently, “What on earth…?”
Why would God relish the blindness of his people?
My wife does this thing, where, when we’re driving to, say, San Diego, she sees shopping outlets, and the car starts to veer towards the freeway exit. And I hold up my hands to block her view so that we might keep going in the same direction.
I think that, as the religious leaders around Jesus forge ahead towards rebellion against God, ironically, in the name of God’s law, God holds up his hands to block them from seeing the thing they so desperately want to reject. They miss God right in front of them, like a soil that can’t handle seed, and they head on towards failure.
Churches do that. Churches do that all the time.
God lets loose a new vision in a church, a vision for change and calling, a vision for mission rather than institutionalism. It’s a vision that comes with a new voice and a new song. And churches reject it. Churches chase it out. Churches kill it.
I don’t think God forces churches to accept his vision. Much to the contrary, he hands them over to exactly what they want. (Rom. 1:28) He holds up his hands to block their view from the vision he has for them, since they clearly don’t want it. He lets us go on our way to failure when we would prefer failure rather than his vision.
But God’s vision goes on with or without us. The vision of a new community, full of love and grace, taking in the lost instead of catering to spoiled insiders, a vision for a community with a voice that speaks softly and sings loud, that vision keeps going on. We’re always invited to join. But our obstinacy won’t send God’s vision to its failure. It will send us to our own failure. But God keeps the door open - when we want his vision, he’ll eagerly plant it in our hearts. I want his vision in me. How about you?