When The Devil Bites

When The Devil Bites

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Tasmanian devils are named for their chilling shrieks that can be heard when the sun goes down on the island of Tasmania. The sound of the devils crying in the night reminded the early colonists of the mythical hellhounds. Despite their terrifying calls, these creatures aren’t as much of a danger to humans as they are to themselves. Not so long ago a vicious cancer began killing these animals and the cause of the disease was a mystery. As scientists began to study them, they discovered that the cancerous tumors were self-inflicted. It’s not uncommon for the Tasmanian devils to fight and bite one another over a carcass or the rights to a female. A devil’s ears will burn a bright red color when they become upset but by lashing out at one another they further their own extinction. The bites they inflict on one another are likely to develop into the mutating cancer that will grow until they succumb to the disease itself, or starvation. You won’t see the ugly side of these animals in Looney Tunes, but there are some valuable lessons to be learned from this. At times we can be guilty of destroying one another through gossip or complaining and, sadly, the church isn’t immune to this disease. It’s no wonder that God warns us about the dangers through His New Testament authors. 

Consider the following verses: 

“Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” James 5.9 

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5.15 

“We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.” 

I Corinthians 10.9-10 

While there’s much to be said about the damage that the tongue can inflict, it’s more productive to discuss solutions to the problem. Ironically, it’s a lack of productivity that often spawns gossip and complaints. As the old adage goes, 

“When there’s nothing to see and do, there’s much to hear and say.” 

Sadly, the darker side of closeness, history, and intimacy can be the breeding ground of gossip. The wounds inflicted and the trust that’s broken can be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. A song we teach to small children should be modeled by adults. 

O be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little ears what you hear

For the Father up above

Is looking down in love

So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little tongue what you say

O be careful little tongue what you say

For the Father up above

Is looking down in love

So, be careful little tongue what you say

Three Ways To Fight The Bite

  1. Avoid being a spreader. It will build your integrity and trustworthiness. 
  2. Make it a point to speak highly of the person being slandered. 
  3. Offer biblical solutions instead of contributing to the gossip. This assumes the person spreading the gossip is genuinely concerned about the person(s) they’re talking about. Have they confronted the subject of their gossip (Matt. 18.15-20)? If they’re unwilling to act but willing to talk— avoid them. 

On the last night of His life Jesus prayed the following, 

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17.20-21 

If unity was on the mind of the Savior even as He faced the cross, it must be important. 

Unity: without it there’s pain but with it there’s unlimited power. 

via Flickr (credit: Mike Prince)
“Devil Disease”: Illustration Of Galatians 5:15?

“Devil Disease”: Illustration Of Galatians 5:15?

Neal Pollard

The Tasmanian Devil population is being decimated by a strange, deadly malady known as “Devil Facial Tumor Disease.”  It is a cancer that horribly disfigures an ever-growing portion of the carnivorous marcupial’s body until it suffocates or starves from lesions in the neck.   Horrific as the disease is, its means of spreading through that animal population is even more so.  The best guess of scientists is that the cancer cell is transmitted when the Devils bite each other during the course of fights.  In attacking their fellow species, they are infecting themselves and likely precipitating their own demise.  Their infamous ill temperament may be facilitating their own extermination.

False teachers troubled Galatia.  This troubled Paul, who by inspiration denounces especially the Judaising troublemakers in the latter part of the epistle.  Paul uses many graphic ways to describe their doctrine and approach.  It was “bondage” (5:1).  It nullified the effect of Christ’s atonement in their spiritual lives (5:2).  It indebted one in a way impossible to pay (5:3).  It estranged one from Christ, causing that one to fall from grace (5:4).  It hindered true obedience to God (5:7).  It was destructive leaven (5:9).  It was brought by troublemakers and persecutors (5:11,12).  It was fleshly (5:13, 16ff).   It led to spiritual destruction (5:17-21).  It was harmful to “one another” relationships (5:26).

Yet, the most graphic description in the midst of several is found in Galatians 5:15.  Paul warned, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another” (NKJV).  Paul had just hyperbolically yearned that the troublers would figuratively mutilate themselves (5:12), but now he says those with such a divisive, ungodly methodology were destined to spiritually wound and even destroy them.

Liberalism is a dominating, troubling concern in spiritual Israel today.  The church faces so many battles centering on proposed changes that threaten to undermine its authority and identity.  Many want to change things clearly and principally set forth in scripture to suit their own desires and inclinations.  In some places, there is an outright push to denominationalize the church of Christ and pollute our pulpits and classrooms with blatantly false ideas.

However, one is naïve who believes only one side (i.e., the “left”) is attacking biblical center.  There are too many from another direction who are equally damaging and vicious in their attacks on the body of Christ.  In one sense, they are more dangerous due to their contention that they are rooting out all false doctrine and exposing all error.  Where they are doing so with proper ethics, attitude, and balance, they are to be applauded.  Yet, there is a mentality that seems wholly obsessed with full-time heretic detection, slandering brethren, and scrupulously elevating minutia as on par with Christ’s doctrine.  They unnecessarily divide brethren and split congregations.  They polarize and draw away disciples after themselves.  They are fight-pickers, seemingly eager to engage in lengthy, unending diatribe and debate to the exclusion of other Christian obligations, of righteous, Christlike conduct, and of a charitable spirit that “is not rude…keeps no record of wrongs…does not delight in evil…” (1 Corinthians 13:5,6).

Yet, a pattern seems to be emerging among such contentious brethren.  First, they are increasingly turning on one another.  Further, they are succeeding in infecting themselves by their biting and devouring.  Then, they are facilitating their own demise—that of their influence, reputation, trustworthiness, and respectability.  However, they have also viciously wounded good men and women from among us in the process.  It is an epidemic that deserves closer attention and needs eradication.

If there is biblical center, it can be abandoned in more than one direction.  The antidote is Christ-like love that leads to love of truth and kind treatment of brethren.  To do less leads to horrific disfiguring of the body of Christ.

animals_hero_tasmaniandevil

NOTE: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN OVER A DECADE AGO. SCIENCE CONTINUES TO CONFIRM THAT THE DISEASE IS SPREAD BY BITING OCCURRING IN FIGHTS…