Walled away from the beauty of Florence, Colorado’s striking blue skies and cool crisp air, Robert Hanssen ticks out the rest of his life in a supermax prison facility where he is serving 15 consecutive life sentences. If you’re like most Americans, you are not familiar with his name, but he is easily one of the most damaging moles in American history. On the outside, he looked wholesome, clean, and all-American. He was college educated with multiple degrees, married, had six children, and has been described as actively involved in church and church organizations. He was an FBI agent for decades, and later employed by the State Department. Between 1979 and 2001 he transferred nuclear secrets, strategic information, American counterintelligence activities, and untold numbers of documents to America’s then chief foreign enemy, the Soviet Union. At one point, he even attempted to recruit a friend of his, a Colonel in the U.S. Army, to join him in his efforts at espionage.
Because he grew up in America, looked American, acted American, and was involved in American life, he was mistaken by America to be a friend. When he was sitting behind his FBI desk, he looked like every other FBI agent. In fact, he looked enough like a good FBI agent that he was given privilege, responsibility, and rank. Of course, his fruits eventually bore him out, and as he grew more active with the soviets, what he was producing became evident to discerning people around him.
Jesus tells a very similar story in the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-20, Matthew 13:36-43). In that parable, a farmer sows wheat, and while he is sleeping an enemy sows weeds among the wheat. The farmer’s workers discover it and ask if they should pull up the wheat. The wise farmer orders them to let the two grow together rather than risk pulling up the wheat with the weeds. When the weeds and the wheat are fully mature, they will be easily identifiable, then they can be separated. One will go to the fire, and the other to the Farmer’s barn.
What we look like isn’t a measure of our status as children of God. Instead, it is what we produce as we mature that is a measure of our relationship (Galatians 5:16-25).