I come from a long line of cannibals. My ancestors loved to chew up (and sometimes spit out) people. Mine was a particularly heinous group that made no distinction between "them" and "us." Members of our own family were just as likely to fall victim as were others. Imagine the tensions that arose when we gathered—each one wondering who might be served up next.
In their defense, my family lived in darkness. Then, the frigid winter I turned 10, one brilliant, fiery flame warmed within me the hope of a different way of living—of turning away from snarling, biting, and chewing to embracing others. I became like Edward Cullen of Twilight fame, recognizing my evil heritage, engaged in a struggle with the nature of my flesh.
Unfortunately, the flame was quenched that had begun to glow within me. With no one to add the kindling of truth to the sputtering spark within, the ember grew cold. Broken bonds, wicked words, and shattered souls littered the path of my life, until one day it all became more than I could bear alone. Tired and out of fight, I found myself knocking on the door of Christendom. Surely I would find refuge there!
I re-entered the kingdom scarred and bleeding, hoping to find healing for my wounds. And I did find some who bathed my bite marks and bound up my wounds. I also found others—others like myself. I found out there are cannibals in Christendom. Hard-headed, wounded creatures like me who had yet to lose their bloodlust.
You know who we are—though you might not recognize us on sight. We are the sweetly smiling sisters who bite your back when you turn away, the nosy Nancys who come sniffing around for the scent of some juicy morsel to share. We are the ones who listen to your heart only to chew it up and vomit it out amid groans of gossip. Yes, there are cannibals in Christendom, in our ministries, in our church offices.
You may not believe me. I implore you; take a look at Galatians 5:15. God warns that if we keep on biting and devouring each other…we will destroy each other. In this same chapter, God tells us that cannibalism is a desire of the sinful nature – the nature that is only subdued by the refining flames of the Spirit.
So, what can be done? First, look in the mirror before you look around you. Does a cannibal stare back at you? Like Edward Cullen, we have to recognize and understand the nature of our flesh. Only in strengthening ourselves can we hope to help others.
Strength to resist our natural appetites comes through satisfying our hunger at another source. The Bible tells us to taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8a). Devouring the truths of the Word throws kindling on the smoldering flame of the Spirit, igniting new passion—a new hunger and thirst for righteousness. If properly tended by meditation and prayer, our appetite for what is good grows and the cannibal within is subdued. Now, we are ready to help others struggling with their natural appetites.
Look around you? Do you recognize other cannibals in your midst? What have we learned in our own struggles? We've learned the nature that we feed is the nature that grows strong. If we are honest with ourselves, we understand that although our inner-cannibal is subdued, without vigilance, we could easily fall into old habits. A little snacking on this one, a little taste of that one, and before we know it—we've unleashed the cannibal within. While we are called to help our brothers and sisters caught in sin, we are also cautioned to be alert to temptation (Gal. 6:1).
We can take our cue from Edward Cullen. His natural appetite to bite Bella was subdued by his love for her. He turned his energies to protecting her. The next time a fellow cannibal offers up a juicy morsel, let's remember to love—because God first loved us (I John 4:19). In love, we refuse to bite. We turn away evil with good. We lift up truth, and with hearts ablaze with love, we light the way.