How Do We Handle Dangerous People?
Jesus creates the way so that when God destroys evil he doesn't have to destroy you.
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Text: Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
Topic: How to handle people who are malicious and vile
- Illustration: A car salesman can't trust his coworkers not to steal his commissions.
- Some of the people around you at work cannot be trusted. In fact, they are dangerous.
Or maybe the dangerous people in your life aren't at work but in your family.
- Illustration: In the movie Waitress, the husband character, Earl, rages, loses his temper, is jealous, controlling, and violent.
Or the dangerous people may be in your neighborhood.
- Illustration: Ben Kwashi, the Anglican bishop of Jos, Nigeria, has suffered from Islamic mobs that beat his family and threatened to kill him.
How do we handle dangerous people?
- A painful reality of life is that we share this planet with some people who are malicious, cruel, and vile.
- So we have to answer the question, "How do we handle dangerous people?"
- We wonder: Why are there evil and dangerous people in the world? Why doesn't God just get rid of them? How are we supposed to handle them?
- Jesus once told a short farming story that seems so simple. But in this little story he gives some surprising answers to these questions.
- Jesus answers these questions in the parable of the farmer in Matthew 13.
- When Jesus talks about weeds here, he's not talking about some harmless little dandelion. He's talking about a type of rye grass that has poisonous seeds. It may look like wheat, but it will make your family sick.
- This story has two big points.
At the end of time, Jesus will remove from this world everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
- The words here for "everything that causes sin" and "all who do evil" don't refer to people who drive 63 in a 55-mph zone.
- In the story, there is an enemy to God, the Devil, who sneaks in and creates evil people who are "children of the evil one."
- These are people who cause others to sin, who cause scandal, whose life is all about doing whatever they want, and if it hurts and ruins other people, who cares?
- Why will Jesus remove them? Because he wants justice to be done and people to be protected and the innocent and righteous to live in safety and joy.
- For that to happen, "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
- That's where this gets troubling to a lot of people. They say, "Isn't asking people to believe in doctrines like that just going to cause them to be more violent?"
Actually, no. It's just the opposite.
- Illustration: Miroslav Volf is a Yale professor from Croatia. In the early 1990s, life in Croatia was unthinkable. Serbs would come and kill your children and burn down your house. Volf says that if you don't believe in a God who brings justice, then when someone kills your children and burns down your house, you're going to take revenge.
- But let's say you believe there is a God who will punish and remove the evil. Then you don't have to take matters into your hands. You don't have to retaliate and take revenge and kill them.
- Whether you like this big point #1 and find it comforting, or you dislike this point and find it disturbing, the clear teaching of Jesus is that "at the end of the world, I'm going to remove everything that causes sin and people who do evil, so that the righteous can shine in their Father's kingdom."
- Jesus is saying: I'm creating a better world, a world in which people don't steal your sale, in which they don't abuse you, in which they don't break into your house and beat up your teenage son.
Since Jesus is going to remove all evil people at the end of time, he doesn't want us to do it now.
- We want to get rid of dangerous and evil people right now, but Jesus wants us to know that he will get rid of them later. (verses 27–30)
- But we say, "God, are you kidding me? Why don't you just get rid of them now? Or let us do it?"
- The farmer in the story says to the workers, "If you try to tear out the weeds, you'll tear out the wheat."
- The weeds and wheat look a lot alike. Until they're full-grown, it's hard to tell the difference between the two. You might make a mistake and think you're pulling up a weed when really you're pulling up wheat.
The reason Jesus doesn't ask us to get rid of evil people is that we wouldn't do a very good job of it. We think someone is a weed and we write them off.
- Illustration: St. Augustine certainly looked like a weed in his early life, but he transformed to become one of the most famous and important Christians in history.
A second reason is that weeds grow so closely to the wheat. Their roots are so closely intertwined that if you pull up a weed, you might pull up the wheat right next to it.
- Illustration: Our country decided to get rid of Saddam Hussein, the brutal tyrant of Iraq, so we went in and uprooted this noxious weed. In the process, more than 4,000 Americans and at least 85,000 Iraqi people have died.
- So big point #2 that Jesus makes is this: Since I am going to remove all evil people at the end of the world, I don't want you to do it now.
- We think, "That is so Pollyanna! While we're waiting around for God to bring justice, some crazed evil person like Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot or Osama Bin Laden will kill off all the good people."
- That's why God gives authorities. The Bible makes clear that governing authorities have been given a job by God to create law and order.
- As the Bible says, a person in authority is "God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:4). So God has given authorities to punish evil people and try to restrain them from doing more.
But Jesus is saying that no matter how much we have all these governing authorities in place, there are still going to be evil people, and God is not going to get rid of them all right now.
- Illustration: To deal with abortion, we can try to change the law, but it's not for us to shoot the abortion doctor.
Four ways to respond to suffering at the hands of evil people.
- 1. Expect to suffer. It's comforting to know that God will bring full justice later. But since God's allowing evil people to continue on for now, you can expect to suffer some.
- Don't take suffering as a sign that you're doing anything wrong. It's not because you're a sinner. It's not because God has abandoned you. It's because in this life, wheat is always surrounded by weeds.
- 2. Pray to be protected and delivered from evil. Jesus prayed for our protection: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."
- And he taught his followers to pray for deliverance: "Our Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
3. Do not take revenge. In the Bible's view, the real danger is not that dangerous people will hurt you. God can work that hurt for your ultimate good. The real danger is that you'll take revenge and become a crazed, angry, and vindictive person.
- Proverbs 20:22
In fact, with God's help, you can even move from I'm gonna get back at them so bad to I'm gonna find a way to treat them well.
- Romans 12:17, 19–21
- God will settle the score for those huge, specific wrongs that were done to you. You can move on and live your life.
- 4. Thank God that he's made a way for weeds to become wheat. Even we good people have quite a bit of evil running through us.
- If Jesus let us immediately get rid of all the evil people in this world, not only would it get rid of the people who are 90 percent evil, but also the people who are 9 percent evil. Are we so good that we are ready for that?
- Thank God, he created a way that my weedy self could be changed into wheat. It's called grace.
- He made a way through Jesus, so that when Jesus comes in all his power and forever removes from this world everything that causes sin and all who do evil, he doesn't have to remove me.
Kevin A. Miller is the Executive Director of Ministry Advancement at Christianity Today and senior pastor at Church of the Savior in Wheaton, Illinois.
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