Old folks will flash on Detective Joe Friday, badge 714, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Homicide Division. “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Funny thing is, I don’t remember him saying, “Just the facts, sir.” I suppose bugging only women to stick to the facts would be sexist nowadays.
But this piece isn’t about Detective Friday. It’s about a Scripture passage, to wit, Matthew 13:47-52.
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
51Jesus said to them,“Have you understood all these things?”They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”
52Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasurethings new and old.”
This dragnet is like the church; it incorporates a vast variety of people, some of whom are good(obedient to the Law of Christ), and some of whom aren’t. The obedient “fish” will be gathered to the Lord, but the others will be burnt up.
This illustrates the problem with the Christian religion; it’s virtually non-discriminating. Anyone who wants to warm a pew may do so, which would be fine and dandy, if they didn’t propagate their vices and poison.
Wanting others to be like oneself is basic human nature. The saints want others to live for Christ, while the corrupt want to corrupt everyone. The religious ideal is for the true Christians to overpower evil with good, thus winning the corrupt over to Christ. The hitch in that idealistic program is the ease with which corruption woos Christians to its infernal side.
Years ago I heard an apt illustration of this process: One day a little boy had all been cleaned up and dressed in a fine white suit to serve as the ring-bearer in a wedding. His parents successfully delivered him, clean and tidy, to the church. While the adults occupied themselves with adult preparations, the children found child-like things to do, which included a quick game of tag. As rain had fallen steadily throughout the night, small mud-lakes had accumulated around the property by morning….
Question: Did the clean and tidy little boy make the mud puddle any less muddy by falling face down into it?
Verse fifty-two applies a somewhat different, and equally valid, reasoning to the issue. Those who come to Christ with extensive background in worldly philosophies and sciences can turn all that knowledge, tempered by faith in and love for God, into a useful resource for God’s kingdom. C. S. Lewis proved that principle with his prolific writing and lecturing after he converted from atheism to faith in Christ. His background in philosophy, pagan and Eastern religions, and folklore, prepared him to become one of the most powerful Christian apologists. His testimony proved that Christian faith and teachings are eminently reasonable when approached systematically and without prejudice.
I thank and praise God for Christ’s dragnet sweeping me up, and allowing me time to grow into my faith. Without that loving grace, I’d be among the bad fish that will be thrown into the fires of perdition.