Not long ago, as I strolled down by the lake, I was suddenly startled by a sound akin to a large volume of air being quickly and forcefully moved by some object or objects. It is not much of a stretch to say that it sounded like a set of helicopter blades beginning to gain traction as they struggled to lift a heavy fuselage into the air.
When I heard the noise, I involuntarily recoiled. But I soon recovered my senses enough to look up and realize that three or four large vultures were lifting off from the ground just inside the woods about fifteen feet away from me. They did not go far, alighting on the nearest branches above them in order to assess the situation.
I paused, scanning the woods where they had been, and soon saw what had been the object of their attention. It was a large deceased raccoon. I did not know what had killed it, or how it had died; but I quickly concluded that at least its earthly remains were not going to go to waste. Not wishing to interfere any further in the unfolding drama, I did not linger long, but quickly went on my way.
Over the next week, I continue to encounter the vultures there as they went about their task. With each passing day, there was less and less of the raccoon and fewer and fewer birds to be seen. Now, neither remains.
Of course, buzzards, as we call them here in the south, are a common sight. Indeed, hardly a day goes by when a person cannot look up into the sky and see a flock of them circling overhead. What is more, as ugly as they may appear, and as disgusting as the job they undertake to do may seem, they are nonetheless a vital part of the ecosystem as they tirelessly search for and remove carrion from the landscape.
Even though I knew all of this, I was not really prepared for what I observed yesterday as I took an afternoon walk. Not far from the house, I looked up to see flock of them circling. I noticed as I made my way down the road that their number seemed to be growing. Altogether, I soon counted thirteen birds soaring high above.
But I soon noticed that the birds kept narrowing their circle, and descending lower and lower to the ground with each pass. By the time I reached the spot directly beneath them, they were so low (about the height of a typical telephone pole) that I instinctively kept a wary eye upon them as I passed beneath, less one of them should swoop down and peck me or something. In the process, I very nearly overlooked the rather obvious object of their appetite.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a large black object lying in the pasture just over the fence row. It was a large deceased black buzzard. The reality of the situation soon sunk in. I do not know what caused the death of the unfortunate bird. But one thing was obvious. Thirteen voracious birds above me were now preparing to descend upon and consume one of their very own! Once again, I did not linger. I had no appetite for watching the dead be eaten!
As I made my way down the road, I reflected on something. It's bad enough watching the dead be eaten. But how much worse it is to watch the living being eaten!
Who among us has not seen a documentary on television where a pack or pride of predators has caught and begun consuming a prey animal even while it was still alive? Such sights are gruesome to behold.
But as disturbing as they are to behold, they are nothing compared to watching what happens when certain species turn upon their very own. A feeding frenzy comes to mind. Often times, lions feasting on a carcass, will lose control and snap at one another, sometimes invoking devastating injuries in the process.
Worse yet, in the ocean, schools of feeding sharks have been observed being worked up into such a frenzy that they begin snapping at anything within reach of their jaws, including members of their own kind. Many instances have been documented wherein a given shark has been wounded, and then turned upon by the rest of the school. In such cases, the unfortunate individual is soon reduced to shreds.
Can those of us who follow Jesus Christ we learn from any of this? I believe we can. As I write this, a certain prominent politician has been in the national news for multiple accusations of impropriety against him. A political cartoon came out today picturing a shark fin in the water with his name on it, trailing blood. Swimming around this fin a half dozen or so other fins can be seen ominously circling!
Do not get me wrong. My purpose here is not to be political. You can draw your own conclusions; but the obvious intent of the cartoon is that the politician in question is now vulnerable, and sensing this, members of his own party are now perfectly willing to turn on him for their own benefit.
The reality is that such behavior is common - not just in politics, but in most all human endeavors! Sadly, it even happens among believers. The Apostle Paul encountered just such an example at the church in ancient Galatia.
In his New Testament Letter to the Galatians (chapter 5, verses 14 and 15), he warns them of the consequences of their actions when he writes:
“14The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 15But if you keep on biting and devouring one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.”
This simple statement contains a profound admonition! It reminds us as Christians that we are called to be a family, united in our love, and in our opposition to the proper enemy of our faith. For our real enemy is not each other; but rather the truly evil one, otherwise referred to in Scripture as Satan, or the Devil. Therefore, he, and not our fellow believers, should be the focus of our opposition.
Yet, sadly, in my years as a Pastor, I observed that often, the quickest way to get a crowd at a Baptist Church was to have a controversial topic on the agenda of a business meeting! Conversely, if there was nothing contentious to address, it could sometimes be hard even to get a quorum!
Let us be better than this! Let us remember that we are brothers and sisters in Christ who need to be united, and who love, affirm, and support one another. As we do, let us also remember who our true enemy is; and let us turn our attention to defeating him and his agenda, rather than one another.
For arguably, the future of the church depends equally upon our love for one another and our common defense of the faith!
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: https://biblehub.com/bsb/galatians/5.htm.