Of Loaves and Resistance (Matthew 13:33)

Some things just don’t “go viral”—not on their own, anyway.  The last time data was collected (which was December of 2014), an estimated 300 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube per minute.  That means that if you spend fifteen minutes reading this post, then by the time you are done there will be an additional 4500 hours of video on Youtube that was never there before.  If you work an 8-hour workday, that means you work roughly 2000 hours per year.  So—get this—if you want to watch all the video that’s been put on Youtube since you read this post, it would take over two years of full-time employment.

What does that mean?  It means that viral videos start as needles in a very large haystack.  But under the right conditions, they emerge and spread like wildfire.  Something similar happens with God’s kingdom:

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)

In his analysis of this parable, Robert Farrar Capon writes that sometimes even our resistance to God’s will can ultimately lead to accomplishing God’s will:

“And even your negative responses—even your pointless resistances to the kingdom—interfere only with your own convenience, not with its working…Unless the dough is kneaded thoroughly—unless it resists and fights the baker enough to develop gluten and form effective barriers to the yeast’s working—then the gases produced by the yeast will not be entrapped in cells that can lighten the lump into a loaf.  Who knows, therefore?  Maybe even our foot-dragging and our backsliding—maybe even the gummy, intractable mess of our sins—is just all in a day’s leavening to the Word who is the Yeast who lightens our lumpishness.”(Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of the Kingdom, p. 120-2)

Think about this for a second: can you think of circumstances in which resisting God has prevented God’s will from happening? 

For some the answer could be “yes,” though I suspect that resistance to God’s will only lasts for so long.  When Joseph confronted his estranged brothers—the ones who had jealously left him for dead before he became an official in Egypt—he told them “You intended to harm me, but God used it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Many religions stress the power of a god to overcome the will of the disobedient.  We might cite Islam—whose very name means “submission.”  Christianity emphasizes conformity to the will of God—yet never through force or manipulation.  Instead, God works his will through us—like the baker with the dough—so that through the process of life with God our rough spots, our tendency to resist can be tenderly kneaded into God’s kingdom program.

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