“Well, at least you planted a seed.”
It’s what one Christian says to another when witnessing does not lead to conversion or our values are put down by non-believers. It has biblical roots in Matthew 13 in which Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In this parable, the seed is the gospel. We drop it here and there and sometimes it springs up and sometimes it doesn’t. Only some of the seeds that take root sprout and only some of the sprouts mature to fruit-bearing age.
What I have been thinking about lately is the fact that I so often confuse “planting a spiritual seed” with forcing my Christian lifestyle on other people. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in defending the greater good. I believe in using my voice and my vote and my influence to further God’s will on earth. It’s when I make an unbeliever feel weird or guilty for not living like I do, that I’ve missed the point.
What is the mark of a believer? The presence of God’s spirit. If someone does not have the spirit, they cannot bear the fruits of the spirit. It is pointless and harmful to expect or request these fruits from non-spiritual people.
An example would be sending a girl out of a youth group event for immodest dress. Now, if it is a girl who has grown up in the church and is dressing provocatively in order to spit in her parent’s face, it might need to be addressed. If, however, it is a new girl or a girl who is a new Christian or not a Christian at all, telling her that her appearance is unholy, that her choice of dress is causing others to sin and embarrassing the congregation is not only ridiculous, but hurtful.
If a woman comes into a crisis pregnancy center looking for help, chances are she thinks she’s pregnant and she’s not too excited about it. She might feel like she can’t afford another baby. Maybe the pregnancy is the result of rape and carrying that man’s child is the last thing she wants to do. Perhaps her boyfriend is pressuring her to have an abortion so their parents don’t find out. In any case, she’s in a crisis and she’s looking for help. In this situation, sitting her down and lecturing her on the Bible’s teaching of abstinence is going to pour cold water all over this critical situation. She is not there to learn about what your god says about your body parts. She is here for help. If later on, through the actual seed you planted, she comes to know Jesus and desires to follow him, she will seek out answers about how to live in a way that glorifies God. At this point, however, she needs information and a shoulder to cry on (along with having her physical needs met, whatever they may be.)
Our job is not to police other people’s sex lives or even spiritual lives. Our goal should be to show love, offer help and point to Jesus. He will take care of the rest. Mark Buchanan put it nicely when he said, “The only kind of control the Bible endorses – indeed, commands – is self-control.”
So I must ask myself this new question when I interact with those who don’t know Jesus, Am I trying to plant a seed, or merely demanding to see the fruit?
Because if my eye is on the results, I’ll never pour in the proper amount of love (which is usually a little more than I plan on giving, isn’t it?) I’m here to give Jesus, not a list of sins. We all fall completely and vastly short of the glory of God no matter what we do with or how we dress our external bodies. The seed is from God, the fruit is His work and to Him does all the glory go.
(a good article on the modesty issue I mentioned is How to Train Your Men to be Abusive by Shannon Coe)