Sermon Illustrations

“To Touch a Scorpion!” Matthew 5: 43-48 Key verse(s): 44 “‘But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

Is it in our nature to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us? Getting even or, in the very least, shunning confrontation with those who would harm us, seems much more relevant to our making than participating in a love feast with those who despise us. Why should we put ourselves into harm’s way for someone who in the best scenario could care less and in the worst may actually cause us even more harm? Isn’t that why God gives us friends; so that we know there are those with whom we may share and participate and those with whom we ought not to? It seems that loving those who neither care to be loved nor are looking for our attention would on the surface at least appear to be a terrible waste of our love.

Recently on a morning walk I was confronted by a very unusual sight. As I turned a corner onto one of the side road marking the mid-way point in my walk, my eyes were greeted by the sight of a bird fluttering in the gravel about fifty yards in the distance. In the dimness of the early morning light it was difficult to make out the species but it was a bird of size with a very vocal call. One was fluttering and dancing around the other; and since I am not accustomed to wearing my glasses on these early morning jaunts, I could only guess as to what they were doing in the middle of the road. As my footsteps neared, neither moved away but the one continued its flapping and fluttering dance.

I approached the one-sided affair and discovered that the lively dance was that of a male Cardinal. His red coat flashed distinctively as his wings caught the first glinting rays of the morning sun. I slowed down and began to wearily approach the bird. As I neared within reach he flew to a branch high above my head and began to scold my “cutting-in” most vehemently. Glancing down at the object of his distraction I noticed that another Cardinal lay in the road. Judging from its limp form I knew that it had met with someone’s windshield. I picked it up and cradled its broken neck. Still slightly warm and with no signs of stiffness, it was obvious that life had been present yet within the hour. At first I thought it must be the other bird’s mate. Why else would it prance and scold above my head? I raised the soft form of the bird into the dim morning light thinking I would spy the tell-tale greenish brown coat of the female bird. But my eyes caught something completely unexpected. It was another male Cardinal! Normally enemies throughout the breeding season, the one had chosen to come to the aid of the other. Seeing its rival lifeless on the road, the one male Cardinal had put aside its competitive nature and assumed a cloak of service. I laid the lifeless rival in the grass along the side of the road and continued my walk. Minutes later, as I returned along the same route backtracking toward home, I spied the Cardinal still perched above its foe, feathers fluffed and head tucked under its wing, a sentinel in the early morning light. If it had somewhere more important to be, it could not be told by its diligent watch.

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