Sunday, August 2, 2009

When a Leopard Is Not a Leopard

When I was young I in the home of a family who had rescued a leopard cub from the poachers who had killed his mother. They had the "cub" in their back yard with their two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and often with their infant son. My dad expressed his concern but the Doctor assured him that if the leopard received "civilized" treatment he would become a good pet, "he is just a big kitty," explained the Doctor.
Six months later we stopped in to find the "kitty" had playfully killed the two lion hunting dogs and was deemed "beyond redemption." It doesn't take a great mental leap to conclude that nature - more often than not - will rule over nurture in the animal kingdom. I believe that is largely true in the human world when it comes to our baser instincts. Maslow's hierarchy of needs can be tossed about in a philosophical discussion but at the end of the day he had pretty good grip on what our human nature would put first - self.
This is why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church to not be conformed to fit into this world (our fallen nature makes that a rather simple process) but to let God "transform" us by His Spirit to become the worshipers He created. Translation: I cannot stop being fallen but God can redeem me from my nature and "civilize" me for Himself. All of which has been said before, and was in fact said during the sermon this morning (
However, I feel compelled to remind myself that the Doctor, who meant well, truly believed and really tried to change the nature of the leopard - but to no avail. He wanted his child to have the excitement of growing up with a large cat, but, the cat could never become the pet he wanted it to be unless he was able to transform its very nature.
Which brings me, happily and finally, to my point. When followers of Jesus, who have submitted to the transforming process attempt to play/work/coexist with those who do not yet follow Jesus - they may be tempted to try to "domesticate" them. Teach them the principles of Jesus and the moral laws of God. However, just as a leopard is always a leopard - until - it has been transformed into a tabby, those who do not yet follow Jesus use works like love, trust, fairness, commitment and giving - to name only a few - far differently than those who are transformed to use those words and the actions that result as God intended.
Love is not about feeling but about commitment. Trust is not limited to one arena such as family, tribe or union. Fairness is not about equal distribution but equal access. Commitment is not limited to signed document and giving begins with the obligation to God. Not something I can do when I am trying to conform to the ever changing landscape of the present culture. God alone can make those words mean those things which helps my understand one other thing Paul wrote in
2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV) "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

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