“Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 22-23 NIV).
Last night I met with the elders and other ministers at Skyline. Together we prayed for some brothers and sisters who are struggling with sin. To be more specific, some members of our flock are choosing to live according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. They have self sitting majestically on their heart’s throne. They are more concerned, at the moment, with pleasing their fleshly desires than pleasing God.
This is a heartbreaking situation for elders and ministers. It is never easy to see a brother or sister wander away from God. It is more difficult when those people are defiant towards God. It is more difficult still when those involved are, in addition to being people you love in the Lord, people you really like, respect, and share a friendship with.
As I woke up this morning, Jude’s words were on my heart. So as I went out for my morning run just as the sun was rising, I was thinking about showing mercy, snatching from the fire, and hating clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
While running in my quiet neighborhood during the early morning hours I always hear the most beautiful birds singing, however, I never know what I will see. I have seen opossums and raccoons scrambling back to their homes. I have seen coyotes finishing up a long night’s work. But this morning I saw something I have never seen as up close and personal as I experienced today.
Just as I was finishing up mile three out of the five I was scheduled to run today, I saw a large hawk land in the middle of the road, right in front of my house. Something was in the clutches of the hawk’s talons. I am not going to sneak up on anybody when I’m running, since the ground shakes with my every stride. The hawk saw me coming and with seemingly little effort lifted straight up off the ground and in a matter of moments was soaring above, with his prey going along for the ride, gripped firmly enough to withstand its valiant escape efforts.
About that time I heard the loudest bunch of birds I have ever heard. They seemed to come out of nowhere. They were loud, their volume increased by the sheer number of them. This was not a case of the birds singing sweetly in the trees, they were sounding an alarm. They were fast, this was not the kind of leisurely flight that you see a seagull enjoying, they were, well, flying! This all happened very quickly, but I would say there were at least 30 birds involved in the chase.
As I hit the button on my watch that began timing my fourth mile, I began to realize what I had just witnessed. That hawk had just raided a nearby bird’s nest and grabbed a feathered breakfast meal to go. The birds, realizing that one of their own was about to be devoured, responded with the only weapons they had at their disposal: noise and numbers.
And that brings me back to the frustration of watching a brother or sister defiantly walk away from God, choosing to love self more than God. It is painful to watch someone you love make a decision that will bring negative consequences for years to come. It is devastating to see someone throw away a relationship with God and His people. It is a terrible thing to watch someone be plucked up in the clutches of Satan, taken away from where they belong, and then devoured.
People make their choices, I know that. God allows people free will. But I don’t think that should stop church leaders and church family from responding when they see the evil one swoop in and strike. Maybe some of our greatest weapons are noise and numbers. If we would just speak up, voicing our concerns to God, alerting our brother or sister about the folly and consequences of turning away from God, and telling the enemy to leave. And if we would do it in great numbers, what an impact that would have.
We just might snatch someone from the fire and save them.