Summary: Two Christians, one unbeliever, a little girl, a puppy, and a shark constitues a story about the lost and the believers responsiblities.
Last weekend Debbie and I were in Charleston, SC for a nice Valentines weekend. We walked for 9 hours around the city, through the market place, and toward the harbor. From where we were standing, we could see a decommissioned aircraft carrier, submarine, and a destroyer. This took me back to my days in the navy when I was a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam.
It also reminded me of an incident that took place while in port in the Philippians. Today I want to share that story with you. Some of you may have heard me before tell this story. If so, just bear with me today.
When I was in the Navy, I was in my early twenties. Like so many other young men, this was my first time away from home. I must admit that at this time in my life I was not a Christian. In fact, I was far from it. I leaned more toward believing in no God at all. I soon found myself more comfortable around the “wild bunch” than the Christians. So while the good guys would go sight seeing when we went to a port, I was inclined to head for the more seedy side.
Two particular guys would talk to me without being preachy. We had a few debates but they were always friendly. Each time we hit a port these two, Sandy and Jeff, would invite me to tag along with them so see the local sights. They persisted long enough for me to agree.
We were docked at the naval base and decided to spend a day in Manila, the capital city. To get from the naval base to Manila you would ride in a water taxi. It was a ferryboat that transported mostly workers to and from Manila to various locations. These boats were not very big and set low in the water. In fact, if the water was choppy or it hit someone else’s wake you stood the chance of getting soaked.
Jeff had an unusual habit of carrying a sponge ball with him wherever he went. He was constantly squeezing and bouncing this ball. This particular day the ball bounced away from him when the boat hit a wave. We were a bit surprised when a small dog came bringing it back. As I looked around to see where the dog had come from, I noticed a young Filipino girl with a frightened look watching us. It did not take me long to realize the dog was hers.
Jeff and Sandy kept playing ball with the dog even though I had pointed out the fact that the owner seemed a bit scared. They would take turns bouncing the ball while the puppy would retrieve it. Again, the ship hit a wave and the ball went into the water. Immediately the puppy jumped into the water. Grabbing the ball, he swam back to the boat where my two friends plucked him out of the water with a safety net. Thus began a new game of bouncing the ball into the water and watching the puppy dive in.
Even though we were traveling between two islands, we were still in the salt water of the ocean. It was while the puppy was in the water that we noticed the dorsal fin of a shark. The puppy was unaware of the danger but we were not. My friends were encouraging the puppy to swim faster prepared to get him to safety when the water seemed to boil and the puppy vanished.
I stood there stunned. My two friends walked away from the rail and propped themselves against the wall. The young girl wept silently. When we arrived in Manila, they acted as if nothing had happened. But I never went with them anywhere again and my viewpoint of Christians diminished.
Now allow me to confess something to you. The story I just told you never happened. Before you accuse of being a liar allow me to explain myself. Look at Matthew 13:34 “Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables.” I just told you a parable. Now I will explain this parable to you.
There are five central characters to this story. We have the two Christian friends, the young girl, the puppy, the shark, and the witness. I want us to examine each of these characters individually.
Let us begin with the puppy.
The puppy represents those who are lost and apart from Jesus. They chase after the bouncing balls that the world has to offer. Such things as “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21)