The other day, I was pulling weeds. My son asked why. I explained they were weeds, and we didn’t want them in our yard. “But those aren’t weeds. They have flowers,” he protested. I told him weeds often have flowers; it is the nature of a plant that makes it a weed, not whether it has flowers. Weeds overgrow and choke other plants; they don’t stay in proper proportion. They consume an inordinate amount of water and nutrients. They are cancers of the plant world.
There is something spiritual about this. Weeds started at the fall. They are part of sin’s curse: “The ground is cursed because of you…. It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Gen. 3:17-18). We didn’t stay in our place. We reached for more than our portion. We acted selfishly, cancerous-ly. Weeds are in man’s image. They grow up everywhere as a reminder of what we are.
The first time I pulled weeds, my dad told me something key: You can’t just pull up the stalk and leaves of a weed. You have to get the root. Otherwise, it’ll grow back. This is a reflection of sin. Fallen behavior is only a surface issue. We often try to deal with sin by addressing actions. This amounts to pulling up leaves and stems. It doesn’t deal with the root problem.
Our root problem is Adam. He suffered a constitutional change at the fall. This change, this perversion, passes from generation to generation. The New Testament calls our changed constitution “flesh” or “the sinful nature.” It is our nature to sin. Pick all the leaves and stems you want. The root will just make more.
It turns out God understood this. (Surprise!). Our heavenly Dad knew the root of our problem must be dealt with. This is what He did through the cross. The cross was God’s trowel, His instrument for pulling up humanity–from those not yet born all the way to the root, Adam.
At the cross, God also planted a new humanity. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop” (John 12:24). Christ was the dying seed. He became the root of a new humanity (the large crop).
Christians are no longer in the uprooted humanity of Adam. We have been replanted with Christ (Col. 1:13, Eph. 2:15). This deals with the root of Adam in history as well as in our souls (Rom. 6:6-11).
This isn’t to say that we never struggle with sin. For now, the weeds and wheat grow together–both in the world and within (Matt. 13:24-30, 26-43). How can we tell the weeds from the wheat within?
A weed is a weed, whether in my backyard or in my soul. Which passions and desires won’t stay in their place and grow out of proportion? Which are greedy–using up time and energy, choking out other types of growth? Which have flowers but nothing that nourishes? These are hallmarks of weeds.
Once or twice a year, we put weed-n-feed on the lawn. This is a much more effective and universal cure for weeds than going at them one at a time with my bare hands. At first, though, I wonder if it’s working. For days, there’s no change. The weeds look as healthy as ever. But after a few days, the weeds start to curl and shrivel. They die while the grass, the good growth, gets greener and thicker.
The death and resurrection of Christ is the ultimate weed-n-feed. We need only apply it. His death deals with the weeds (the sinful nature); His resurrection feeds spiritual growth. Sometimes, we take it on ourselves to deal with weeds. We engage in the back-breaking work of trying to pluck up every sin through will-power. But Christ’s death and resurrection is more effective and all-encompassing if we will just have patience and faith. Our outer man is wasting away; our inner man is being renewed every day (2 Cor. 4:16). The weeds are shriveling, and new life is flourishing!