“His [Jesus’] winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mt 3:12; c.f. Lk 3:17)
When I was younger I worked for an organic farmer for several years who still used many traditional Ontario farming practices, including the fanning mill. Taking grain from the grainery of the old hip roof barn I insert pails of raw grain directly into the mill. A combination of the fanning and shaking would separate the chaff from the grain. The chaff was good for, well, nothing; and the grain, free from defect or blemish, would be used to plant in the fields. This Victorian invention mechanized the age old practice that Jesus describes in our verse, whereby the grain was threshed (beaten to loosen the grain) and then winnowed by tossing the grain-husk-stem mix into the air. The breeze would carry away the unwanted materials and the grain would fall to the threshing floor to be collected, used or consumed. The chaff would be burned.
Now this verse has an eschatological edge to it (end times), however, there is a sense in which it has more universal application today: the Lord is often busy about winnowing the visible Church, separating real and nominal Christians, the former to His glory and the latter to their derision.
As we’ve been seeing in C2C, at certain times in history seismic events overturn established orders and reveal the true state of things, human hearts.
For many years the wheat and chaff in the visible church have been allowed to remain together in Ontario churches. Many people looked like respectable Christians, that is until the winnowing fork was set to them, the pressure produced by recent seismic shifts and events that revealed on what side of the line they really stood:
We are living in changing times and the pressures of these changes are highly revelatory as to the hearts of visible Christians. This is burdensome, yet there is hope, hope that the church, purged, pruned and winnowed may be the faithful remnant that will then shine forth all the brighter in the darkness.
The crowd, the media, pressures people to abandoned independent thought, and through fear, make them conform to their program. That is what lies behind virtue signalling.
Virtue signalling, a buzz word these days, is when you go along with the flow, not believing it to be true, but accepting or giving lip service to it, so that you do not face its wrath or intimidation.
But this is so very dangerous, to go along with something you don’t believe in simply out of the fear of public reprisal. This is how Nazi Germany developed, with too many Germans fearing taking a stand and so becoming virtue signallers for the safety of their families, economic benefit or continued social standing.
An old county song I recall from my youth had this poignant line, “you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”
Biblically, that something ought to be what God has said is true. In grace, we need to pray that as Christians we would have the boldness to speak the truth; that He would give us the courage to stand with the Lord in faith and not go along with the world in fear.
So many men of women of the faith from the Bible and history come to mind when I think of this, however, one verse strikes me, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor 16:13)
May we be radiant signals pointing people away from the world and to Christ!
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.