Fish for the furnace

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. When it was full, the pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away. That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. (MT 13:47-50, CEB)

Two thoughts that I cannot escape based on the many passages similar to this in the New Testament.

Thought 1: There will be a sorting, a judgment. In that sorting we find only two categories ever mentioned. We find no gray, middle category of mostly righteous or only sort of wicked people. At least not one I can find anywhere in the New Testament. The Bible, however, is not really clear on where the fault line is between the good fish and the bad. Much of the differences among Christians might be fruitfully analyzed in terms of how bad a fish you have to be before they think you are heading for the furnace.

Thought 2: It is not my job to do the sorting. This is the work of Jesus and his angels. The net will haul us all in together. While I don’t think such a realization is an excuse to ignore church discipline, it is a relief for those of us who sometimes mistakenly assume Jesus appointed us to go around sniffing the fish to figure out which ones have gone bad.