What the new gnu knew that the old gnu didn't know
For years, I began my reading of the newspaper with the comics page, partly due to the long-term maturity issues and partly because I prefer to laugh rather than cry as I often did while reading the rest of the news. One morning I eagerly opened to the comics hoping to read the concluding strip of a fast-escalating crisis in "Animal Crackers." A little background — a herd of gnu led by a beneficent, but also rather milquetoast gnu, were facing a defining moment. A new gnu had come to town, and he was challenging the old gnu for leadership of the herd. I think the new gnu's name was Rodney, but it's been a long time. Anyway, we will call him "Rodney." Rodney was gargantuan as comic strip gnus go, at least twice the size of the current leader. In the latest episode, the battle for leadership of the herd had reached a tipping point. The first panel showed the obviously nervous old gnu leader approaching Rodney with the entire herd trailing behind him. The second panel was a close-up of the two aspiring leaders, in which the current leader is saying, "Rodney, you may be big and tough and mean, but I have one thing that you will never have . . ." The final panel panned to the wider view where the herd, unbeknownst to their leader, is evaporating into the distance behind him while the old gnu leader confidently continues his thought: "the total support of the herd."
What does any of this have to do with the Bible? Consider something Jesus said. He told his faithful companions of about three and one-half years, that after his arrest they would all forsake him. This seemed to pretty seriously offend all the disciples. Their unofficial leader, Simon Peter, went so far as to say that even if all the others forsook Jesus, he would NEVER forsake him. Never say never, especially if it contradicts the explicit words of Christ. All the rest also affirmed their undying support. A few hours later, all had forsaken Him, and Peter had publicly denied Him three times. What is the point here? There seems to me to be at least three:
1. Jesus knew the disciples better than they knew themselves. Amazingly, He still loved them "warts and all." After His resurrection, He restored all of them and Peter in particular. God's love for those who have chosen to come to Him in repentance and faith is unconditional. He remains faithful to us, even when we are unfaithful.
2. None of us is above failure. In the wrong circumstances, fear can make cowards of us all. We would do well to consider often the warning that, when we think we stand, we are most susceptible to falling.
3. Don't live your life for the approval of the crowd. The support of the herd is not always reliable. Jesus sternly rebuked the Pharisees for doing all their good deeds for the praise of men. It is not evil to care about other people's opinions of our actions. It is seriously unwise, however, to be motivated only by the praise of the crowd. It will inevitably lead to unbiblical, and sometimes even evil, deeds. Better to commit to trying to please God at all times and other people when it doesn't conflict with pleasing Him. Jesus said of the Pharisees that even if they earned the acclaim of men, it would be the sum total of their reward.
Better to live for eternal reward and not earthly acclaim. The cheers of the crowd today often turn to the catcalls of the same tomorrow. It is altogether possible some of the same people who said, "Hosanna in the highest," when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem may have been in the crowd outside Pilate's judgment hall a few days later crying out, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Solomon was surely right when he said that there is nothing gnu . . . I mean new under the sun.
(Scripture referenced: Matthew 26:31-35; John 21:12-17; II Timothy 2:11-13; I Corinthians 10:12; Matthew 6:1-5; 21:9; Mark 15:12-14; Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Ron McMullan is the pastor at Prineville Bible Church. He can be reached at 541-233-6268.
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