This weekend, I spent much time on my knees in the drizzling rain. I wasn’t exactly praying. I was weeding in my first battle of the season. My enemy? Quack grass, the third most invasive weed species in the world. Living in the country as I do, quack grass is abundant in the fields and, unfortunately, in my many perennial beds. Quack grass and I have an ongoing battle because, left unattended, it will choke everything I love and leave an ugly mass of unwanted weeds. Here are a few facts about this garden terrorist.
First, quack grass is not a grass. It masquerades as grass but it’s a weed—a very aggressive, invasive, destructive weed. Second, quack grass is subversive. It multiplies underground rapidly, spreading its white runners called rhizomes several feet in all directions. Third, if you try to dig out quack grass and you break the rhizomes, you actually help it multiply. The only way to eradicate quack grass is to kill or completely remove the entire root system. To protect your garden, you must show this terrorist no mercy. There is no room for tolerance or negotiation. You find it, you kill it, and you keep watch for any evidence of new growth because you know there is a vast, underground system intent on takeover. Do I sound too political? I’m just giving some sound gardening advice!
While on my knees doing warfare in my shrub rose bed, getting cut by thorns through my gloves, I started thinking about good and evil, life and death. Our world contains both, just like my garden contains beautiful roses and deadly quack grass. I thought about what complicated creatures we are with our combination of good and bad, beauty and ugliness. I thought about my own desire to become holy and pleasing to God yet realizing how far I still have to go.
From my vantage point, the world has changed in my fifty-some years. To me, it looks like the quack grass is becoming more and more dominant, threatening the existence of the roses. Our culture supports less and less of the godly and more and more of the ungodly. I see Christians complacently tolerating and sometimes embracing things that would not have been tolerated or embraced thirty years ago. These concepts and behaviors are not matters of preference; they are matters of godliness vs. worldliness which, in the end, means they are matters of life vs. death—roses or quack grass. Yet, we have become content to allow cohabitation in the garden of our souls having been duped into believing “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4)
Think again. Jesus taught in parables because the kingdom of God can be seen in how His creation works. Jesus had a lot to say about weeds in Matthew 13. He talked about weeds being sin sowed by the enemy. Jesus named the enemy. Satan and his demons were once angels who, due to their pride and free will, rejected God’s ways, were cast away from His presence, and began wreaking havoc in the world, destroying everything where they can gain a foothold—just like quack grass in my garden. Footholds start small in the soul of just one and spread their deadly stranglehold in wider and wider ripples through families, communities, and nations.
Just as we understand and accept laws of our physical realm, such as gravity, the laws of the spiritual realm are just as real. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Of course, because we have free will, we can deny any reality but, the truth is, if you jump off a cliff you will fall. If we don’t deal with sin, we will experience death on some level, if not all—emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual. We will surely die in some degree, on some level. It is a certainty, not a probability.
Evil exists. It must be dealt with properly in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, and in our world. If we fail to believe that evil exists by sugar-coating or denying our fallen condition, we become like my garden—still possessing beauty presently, but at risk of being overcome by a subversive, aggressive, invasive, destructive, unseen enemy.
Jesus taught that our most dangerous sins are not necessarily the most noticeable, but the deeper issues of the heart. That’s why he told the crowd ready to stone the woman to death for her outward sin to take a moment and think about themselves. Then he said, in my paraphrase, “Go ahead. Whoever is perfect, throw the first stone at her.” Jesus wasn’t condoning the woman’s sin; he told her to go and sin no more. But Jesus was challenging them, and all of us today, to guard against the fallacy that any of us are righteous by our own efforts.
We are all fallen, imperfect creatures and cannot raise ourselves to the level of perfection. No one has; no one ever will. Those throughout history who judge themselves by their own standards of righteousness instead of by the holy, perfect standard of God have created more havoc, more hell on earth than we thought possible for humans, even those who considered themselves religious. It doesn’t surprise me. Yet, many shake their heads in shock at the evil of a Hitler or a Stalin or an Osama bin Laden, just to name a few. The same weeds at work in evil regimes are at work like quack grass in our own souls. There are many hidden rhizomes of destructiveness in our world and in our souls. If evil forces are left unattended due to naiveté, complacency, ignorance, and pride, the underground roots of destruction will spread and threaten to destroy whatever present peace we have, individually and corporately.
Having finished weeding for the day, I came in tired, drenched, and covered with dirt. Dealing with quack grass is a messy business requiring vision, tenacity, energy, and a willingness to get on one’s knees for leverage. After changing, I sat down and did some research on quack grass eradication methods. I was surprised and amused to learn that quack grass is also known by another name—devil’s grass. There’s no such thing as coincidence.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24