The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest

The woodland creature known as the porcupine weighs 15-20 pounds. This primarily nocturnal animal gets its name from the Latin word for pig and the French word for thorn. These “prickly pigs” have 30,000 quills each are a mass of tiny overlapping barbs. When threatened these rodents first try to escape and if that doesn’t work---it tucks its vulnerable little head, turn its back and “Wham!” When touched, the quills dislodge into an attackers warm flesh and the barbs on the quills flare out working against the muscle to embed deeper into the flesh. Though not poisonous, the quills may kill. Animals with quills in the mouth can die of starvation or from a subsequent infection. The 1 – 2.5-inch thorns have been found in everything from polar bears to trout fish.
Porcupines are not known to be lovable or amiable. They don’t hang out in colonies like other rodents do. They detached from their mother and self-sufficient just a few months after birth. It’s a small wonder that their peculiarities don’t render them extinct. In fact they populate North American forest areas rather well, some stabs and scratches along the way notwithstanding.

How do porcupines survive and even thrive? How do they get past all the prickliness and go on? Well, actually they learn to dance. Seriously. They do a kind of two step to get along and we could all learn a lesson here. Called a “love dance” by some, porcupines will waddle on their hind feet to engender a better situation during mating. When disposed, they nuzzle noses and place their front paws on each other’s shoulders and sort of waltz a little. Each flattens their quills so to not hurt the other. They make it work. In wintertime a small group may even cluster together for warmth in what is termed a prickle. So there you have it, even the unlikely scenarios of intimacy, mating and fellowship can and do occur with such spiny a species.

Sometimes human beings can be prickly like a porcupine. We can be edgy and defensive around folks that are not our “cup of tea.” People with course personalities can rub our fur the wrong way and we can respond in a prickly manner.

Some church people in the world can be like porcupines with other people in the world. They can push back against folks who do not maintain the moral codes we follow. The Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus’ time were prickly toward people who were not as religious as they or who did not keep their rules of morality and conviction. In fact, when Jesus didn’t follow their systems and policies, they criticized him and accused him of the horrific crime of blasphemy.
They criticized Jesus for hanging out (eating and drinking) with “sinners.” One of the most despised groups of people in Jewish society were the traitorous tax collectors the King James Bible calls “Publicans.” These were Jewish citizens who collected taxes from their own people on behalf of the Roman Empire. The Romans had conquered Judea and Galilee along with the rest of the known world and kept them under their political thumb. These “Publicans” had sold out their own people for money. It is no wonder that they were offended when Jesus made friends with and went home to dinner with the notorious Publican Zacchaeus.

But Jesus saw the diminutive tax collector, not for who he was, but for what God could do with him. After Jesus had eaten dinner with and taught Zacchaeus the tax collector’s life was changed forever. He stopped over-taxing people for his own benefit and returned what he had taken wrongly with interest. The reason Zacchaeus repented was because this loveless, despised little man, had been touched by the love of the Savior. He had never been treated this way before. Jesus pulled in the prickly quills he could have used and danced the song of love, acceptance and forgiveness with this man who needed it more than ever.

This is why the first tenet of First Christian Church’s mission statement is to “Show God’s Love to the Loveless.” If Jesus loved us when we were loveless or unlovable, we should do the same for others.

This Sunday we will continue our series on the mission statement of FCC titled Mission Possible with a message titled Show God’s Love to the Loveless based mostly on 1 John 3:16-18 & 1 John 4:7-12. We will learn how to draw in our prickly quills and “Show God’s Love to the Loveless.”

Loving like Jesus,

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