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Vantage point

Avoid these

Garbage night. I dutifully rolled the can out of the garage toward the curb. As I neared my intended curbside destination I noticed activity a short distance away. Apparently a new pair of black and white cats had moved into the neighborhood. They were intent on something in the storm drain. My curiosity aroused, I stopped to watch. Suddenly, a third, smaller one appeared out of the drain. I noted how fluffy they all were — with big, furry black and white tails. Suddenly I realized that the acrid smell hanging in the air was not coming from my garbage can. Leaving the can in the middle of the driveway, I broke a personal speed record, dashing into the garage and frantically punching the button to bring down the door.

Safely inside, my wife, Peggy, and I watched from our windows as a pair of adult striped skunks pulled four baby skunks out of the storm drain and proceeded to walk down the sidewalk, disappearing en masse into a neighbor’s yard.

This happened during a short bout of cooler weather, a brief respite from the hot, humid Missouri summer, and I had intended to open the windows for fresh air that night. I changed my mind. We left the air conditioner on.

The smell hung in the air for weeks, until the brood was raised and they vacated the vicinity.

Sometime later, I ventured out in the woods to hike. I hadn’t paid attention to the time and I found myself well into the woods when the sun fell. Under the tree canopy it was pitch black.

In the dark, I began to think about wild animals.

Not the ferocious variety, but skunks. Skunks are nocturnal; they come out at night. And if you happen to stumble upon one in the dark, it can make you smell really bad.

It’s sort of like that in the church. Yes, Satan is a roaring lion, seeking those he can devour. And Christians do need to learn spiritual warfare. But the greatest damage to churches is done by those who make the church smell bad — by venting a critical spirit, passing along gossip or complaining continually rather than pitching in to make a difference. This causes a smell that makes people want to stay away … and the smell can last for a long time.

I’d rather wrestle a demon than try to fight a backbiter.

Skunks are part of nature. They exist and we avoid them.

Those who cause the church to smell bad can, however, change their stripes. And they should be challenged to do so. If they refuse, they should be avoided as well. The Christian’s life should instead, by love and humility, give off "a sweetsmelling savor" (Ephesians 5:2).

— Ken Horn

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