Bible, Teaching, z10
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Bad Elephant


The key is how you communicate. Photo: Grande Elephant Claude44/Foter/CC BY-SA

The key is how you communicate. Photo: Grande Elephant Claude44/Foter/CC BY-SA

[By Earl Blacklock] Out of all the animals in the three-ring circus, none are as beloved as the circus elephant. The sight of the awesome beast, tenderly carrying a flower of a girl on its back, is usually the highlight of a circus performance.

Bozo was a master of the circus ring, beloved by families and performers alike. Then its behaviour changed. It became enraged at the slightest provocation, and even went after its keeper with murderous intent. It was clear Bozo was dangerous, and the decision was made to kill it.

But this was the circus, in a time different from our own. The manager decided that if the animal had to be killed, it might as well make the circus some additional revenue, so he sold tickets to the execution.

And people came, scores of them waiting perversely for the moment of the animal’s passing. And one who came with a different purpose.

Rudyard Kipling, the beloved author of the Jungle Book, had heard of the circus’ plans and he made a plan to change the outcome. As the ringmaster made ready to give the shooting squad its signal, Kipling laid a hand on his shoulder and asked “Wouldn’t you rather keep this elephant alive?”

“No”, was the firm reply. “He is a bad elephant”. Kipling replied simply “You’re wrong”, and he offered to show him. He even came prepared with a notarized legal release so that there would be no repercussions for the circus if the elephant succeeded in maiming or killing him.

Thus placated, the manager relented. He watched Kipling enter the elephant’s cage. The enraged animal began to charge the intruder, but Kipling began gently to talk – and the elephant became quiet. Kipling continued to talk and Bozo began to cry out piteously.

As the elephant calmed, Kipling went up to the beast and patted it gently, then led it around the cage in triumph. The elephant was clearly restored to its previous temperament.

When Kipling exited the ring, he told the ringmaster that the elephant had been homesick, longing to hear the Hindustani language it had heard from its early years. He suggested hiring a keeper who could speak to Bozo in Hindustani to keep the elephant in good spirits. And then he left, his mission fulfilled.

Paul said in I Corinthians 14:10-11:

“There are probably many kinds of languages in the world, and none is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of a language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.”

We see regularly in those outside the household of Christian faith a wrath and rage as they rail against the gospel. And sometimes, frustrated, we wonder how so much anger could be mustered against Christ’s message and His messengers.

And then we realize that they do not yet know any language other than their own. We all must learn to convey God’s truth with language that demonstrates His great love.

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