Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Elephant and the Rhinoceros


Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” – Galatians 1:1-3

The Greek Philosopher, Strabo, explains the word “overtaken” using the fight between the rhinoceros and elephant. The elephant, being stronger and larger, expects fully to win.  But the rhinoceros, seeing that his only choice in defeating the elephant is to rip open his belly with the horn on his nose, does so.  The elephant is “overtaken” suddenly, unexpectedly.  The wound is physically great, but also emotionally great. 

The elephant isn’t to be judged by his wounds.  He is already ashamed and discouraged by the fact that he let himself be beaten.  Instead, those that are strong enough are to “restore him”.  Those words are rooted in the act of a surgeon carefully putting a limb that’s out of place back into its socket, its rightful place.  We wouldn’t attempt such surgery without confidence that we could be successful, knowing that if we were not successful we could even create more harm.  Likewise, we must prepare ourselves for such an act of restoration through prayer, fasting, and feeding on God’s word.  It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we find any power at all to help each other.

The brother and sisterhood of the body of Christ should be one where we are free to admit our mistakes, to ask for help, to go to the altar without fear of gossip.  We should encourage each other to be genuine, transparent with our weaknesses and strengths.  We should be able to “bear one another’s burdens” knowing that when our burden comes, someone will be there to bear it with us.  This is why the church is called a body – we act as one.  When one hurts, we all hurt.  When one rejoices, we all rejoice with them.  “Love one another even as I have loved you” was not a suggestion.  It was a command to the body of Christ.  Jesus saw past our sins to what we could be.   

Pride in who we are at this very moment has no place in such a body.  It rots away the intimacy we have with each other, causing us to want to hide our problems, to appear holy and blameless.  Removing that pride from ourselves is as easy as recognizing that NO ONE has committed a sin or grievance so great that we ourselves can guarantee we would never do the same.  A quick look at the sum of our past sins, our current failures, and what sins are still possible in our future should we not submit to the will of the Holy Spirit should repel all self-pride. 

We all play on the same field here, and the world is full of traps for the Christian to fall into.  We don’t know when our rhinoceros will show up.  But we can plan for that fateful event by remaining active in the body of Christ, and actively helping others who have already met their rhinoceros. 

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