2018-09-13 / Editorial Page

Most dangerous sharks aren’t the ones that swim in the ocean

Words of Encouragement
By ROGER ALFORD columnist

A wealthy man on the other side of the state enjoyed inviting people to his house to show off the shark he kept in his saltwater swimming pool on his lavish estate.

When people were gathered around the pool, the wealthy man would make an offer: “If any of you will swim across the pool, I’ll give you $500,000, a brand new home, and a fancy sports car.”

As soon as he made the offer on one particular occasion, there was a splash, and an overweight middle- aged fellow swam across the pool as fast as fast as he could go with the shark snapping at his heels. He managed to get out of the water on the other side before being ripped to pieces.

The wealthy man was impressed, and congratulated the fellow, telling him he was the first person ever to accept this challenge.

“Now what would you like first?” the wealthy man asked. “The money? The house? The sports car?”

“The first thing I want,” the man said, “is the name of the person who pushed me into that pool.”

All of us have had acquaintances who would try to push us into things. Our parents likely warned us that we’d encounter such people, and that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be manipulated by them.

It’s hard to imagine, but the same kind of activity can happen in churches. That’s why the Bible admonishes Christian leaders to be careful not to be the kind of person who bullies others into doing things.

‘Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock’ (1 Peter 5:1-3).

The Apostle John once had a run in with a fellow who embodied the opposite of that description of a godly church leader. Here’s what John said:

‘I wrote unto the church, but Diotrophes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, received us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deed which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words, and not content therewith, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and forbids them that would, and casts them out of the church’ (3 John 9-10).

Can you imagine someone with the audacity to tell the great Apostle John and other early church leaders who walked alongside Jesus during his earthly ministry that they weren’t good enough to preach in his pulpit?

Diotrophes seems to have been the kind of person who might shove someone into a pool with a man- eating shark. Of course, some of the fellows I go to church with might be tempted to push a fellow like him in.

Roger Alford offers words of encouragement to residents of America’s heartland. Reach him at rogeralford1@gmail.com.

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