Shifting Metaphors …

We often use images/pictures/metaphors to communicate truth/actions. A dominant evangelistic metaphor has been that of the “warrior.” In the New Testament, the warrior image is generally connected to systemic battles. Followers of Christ face the constant battle of living in an environment generally dictated by an idolatry of self inspired by the idolatry of the Enemy. So, Paul writes to those following Christ in Ephesus to put on the whole armor of God.

Are there any stories or places where the image of “warrior” is used with regard to evangelism in the Scriptures? What about among the words of Jesus?

A friend has suggested the metaphor of a “gardner” when it comes to evangelism. Sowing seeds and leaving weeds are among some of the pictures we find in the Scriptures. Are there other stories/words giving us the picture of a “gardening” when it comes to evangelism?

In a discussion about a possible shift in metaphors, many who have been conditioned, trained and practiced evangelism using a warrior motif, could not grasp the notion very well. One of the concerns was a lack of “intensity” of those evangelizing – gardners are not very intense so it was expressed.

I could not help but think about Glenn. If his habit of gardening were the example, there would be plenty of intensity and care when it comes to evangelism.

What are your thoughts?

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

7 comments on “Shifting Metaphors …

  1. says:

    II Timothy 2 uses the metaphor of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. I could not find any direct use of warrior in the new testament, only soldier on four occasions. The farmer or husbandman was used twice.

    I think you may be on to something, we are not warriors when it comes to evangelism, just soldiers in defending the faith, intent on serving our general. The use of sowing seed would seem to fit evangelism better. But not just sowing, watering and weeding would also need to be done. So often we want to do the sowing but not the watering, fertilizing, weeding, protecting, nurturing, that requires relationship building to accomplish a “ripe” or mature product.

    The people we evangelize are not our enemies, so the warrior view of evangelist would frighten more of those we are trying to reach than the husbandman approach described above. But I could be wrong.

  2. says:

    Glad you mentioned the soldier who defends the faith. We do need to defend the faith, but we might need to consdier what faith we are defending. Surely a subject for another post.

    Take a second look at the parable of the wheat and the weeds. You may have to dismiss the image conveyed by Bailey Smith’s famous “Wheat and the Tares” sermon. Do you find it interesting that the hands were told not to pluck the weeds?

  3. says:

    I think this to show that God chooses to have wheat in the midst of tares and vice-versa. Also the tares were sown while men slept, though we have to sleep sometimes, too much sleeping would mean more tares. Also we in our limited wisdom may not have the ability to determine tares from wheat and that is left to the angels to do God’s bidding in the end. So to prevent the uprooting of the delicate wheat, He allows the tare to live in close proximity to the wheat. So if we are to be gardeners we must leave the weeding to God? Or is Christ the only gardener and us the wheat? Or since we are the “body of Christ” are we then transormed into the Gardener? or……..

  4. says:

    Another good agricultural example is John 15, the vine and the vinedresser. Jesus talks not only of abiding in the true vine, but also of pruning (a.k.a. sanctification) which I think extends our duties beyond just sowing if Lyle is correct about the “body of christ” taking on the duties of gardener. The tares being left are something I’ve never really thought about before, but definitely merits further discussion. Could the tares be left so that God could be glorified in the difference or seperation seen between the two?

  5. says:

    As I understand it, a tare is indistinguishable from the wheat until harvest time. The head of the tare is void of seed and so substance. Yet, by all appearances it looks like wheat.

    We have been told to work the fields – the seed has been sown. We have not been given pruning privileges as I can tell.

    What about the process of sanctification requires us to prune? Does God do the pruning and so by his Spirit effect sanctification?

  6. says:

    Pruning in reference to the vine is talked about as of individual branches where we individually are the branches. Therefore I always assumed that the pruning talked about here was the molding and shaping of a person abiding in the vine. I never thought of it as cutting people off, but simply the trimming of dead or unneeded parts of the branch so as to cultivate growth in the desired areas. That is why I associated it with sanctification or the process of discipleship. As far as the tares are concerned, that is not a word I’m familiar with except in this particular parable. But if you cannot tell the wheat from the tares, my question doesn’t make much sense. In the past I always thought of tares as what we commonly call cheat, which is distinguishable, though not easily distinguishable from a distance.

  7. says:

    A.T. Robertson offers this picture for the word “tare” –
    The enemy deliberately sowed “the darnel” (zizania is
    not “tares,” but “darnel,” a bastard wheat) over (epi) the wheat, “in the midst of the wheat.” This bearded darnel, lolium temulentum, is common in Palestine and esembles wheat except that the grains are black. In its earlier stages it is indistinguishable from the wheat stalks so that it has to remain till near the harvest. Modern farmers are gaining more skill in weeding it out.

    You make a good point I initially did not see that may be more important than my original post (actually most points are more significant than my posts). The process of sanctifcation may indeed not be possible apart from “community.” That is, I may not (at least not yet) see the “body of Christ” performing the work of the gardner/vinedresser, but find it a fascinating thought that the work of forming and forging comes under the pressure of relationship – “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

    This illustrates my passion – everyone is on the learning journey when it comes to following Jesus. The Spirit teaches me today in this “online communal” kind of way.

    As for the shifting metaphor – the picture for me is the gardenr motif tends toward greater passion and care than the warrior and yet, most of the time we talk in terms of conquest rather than conversation/fellowship/sharing life.

    Thanks Shawn and Lyle – I now have more to wreslte with in terms of this image -which is precisely what I long for.

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