The church has a very big task. Sometimes we feel our resources are just inadequate. Here’s a story that came to me recently.
A hunter walking through the jungle found a huge dead elephant with a pigmy standing beside it.
Amazed, he asked, “Did you kill that?”
The pigmy said, “Yes.”
The hunter asked, “How could a little bloke like you kill a huge beast like that?”
“I killed it with my club.”
The astonished hunter asked, “How big is your club?”
The pigmy replied, “There are about sixty of us.”
Now I don’t want to get into all the complex ethical issues involved in game hunting. I have never at any stage of my life had an urge – or even a slight desire – to go elephant hunting.
My most recent encounter with elephants was outside an area where a circus tent was being erected. The poor things were tethered on chains and stood there rocking back and forth. I thought, “That’s no way to treat these magnificent creatures!”
Yet I find myself responding to the story of the pigmy and the elephant. It sounds as if it is going to be a sort of David-and-Goliath story – the little fellow who wins against impossible odds.
The “club” of sixty brings in a different element altogether. There is a great deal we can do together that would otherwise be impossible and lead to possible disaster. Then there’s that modern buzz-word “synergy”. It comes from a Greek word meaning “co-operation”. But its modern usage goes a step further. What we can do together turns out to be considerably more than the sum of what each of us could do alone.
A little pigmy with a wooden “club” would be on a dangerous mission. If he did manage to inflict a stinging bruise, the huge beast would be after him. He would be running as fast as his legs could carry him, looking for somewhere safe. We might imagine a “club” is better than nothing. In fact, it would be worse than nothing.
In fact, the Christian church is charged with a message than has the potential to change the world. Too often we reach for some current “club” from society’s armoury – some “club” that may have real but limited usefulness.
The notice-board of one Brisbane church announced that the minister was a registered and qualified psychological counsellor – and could be seen by appointment. I don’t in any way downplay the important work done by psychologists or counsellors. Yet this minister seemed to be implying that what he might offer as a minister of the gospel was much less able to help people than his secular training in psychology. He was selling the gospel short.
Paul had no doubts about it. He wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1.16). He wasn’t in the business of offering the world any socially acceptable second-best. He knew that there is only one message with the power to bring about real change in human beings, only one message that deals with the basic need of the human heart.
That is why he could write, “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6.9-11). Through the gospel they were forgiven and their lives were dramatically changed.
What people need isn’t “affirmation” in their area of brokenness, but “salvation” – including both forgiveness of sins and transformation of life-style.
That’s the message committed to us for dissemination throughout the whole world. But we’ll never do it without our “club” – of the kind the pigmy had.
Paul calls us the “body” of Christ. Now I don’t know about you, but my body isn’t a sundry mixture of bits and piece that happen to be together making “me”. My body is a collection of parts that all have different functions. If any part isn’t working properly, I am sick and can’t do what I should.
As Christians, we need one another – bound together with love and doing what God enables each of us to do uniquely – if we are to share the message of God’s forgiving and transforming grace effectively with our world.
Hunting elephants? or even crocodiles! Jesus talking about “fishing” for people.
Don’t try it alone! Join the “club”!
© Peter J Blackburn, Link, August 2003