Have you ever watched a sea gull? When in flight he powerfully lifts himself higher and higher with every flap of his wings until he is higher than any other gull. Then, he gracefully circles down to the earth. The gull seems to be all about performing and excelling.
What happens, though, when Mr. Gull gets into a flock of gulls? It is not a pretty sight. There are territorial fights over food that cause feathers to fly everywhere. The word ‘share’ is not in the gull’s vocabulary. Philip Yancey said that ‘they are so fiercely competitive and jealous that if you tie a red ribbon around the leg of one gull, making him stand out, you sentence him to execution. The others in his flock will furiously attack him with claws and beaks, hammering through feathers and flesh to draw blood. They’ll continue until he lies flattened in a bloody heap.”
By contrast, consider a flock of geese. You’ve seen them flying in a V-formation, honking all the way to wherever they are going. Scientists know that geese fly faster in that V-formation. The lead goose is the one doing all the work, flying against the wind. It is because of this that there is a regular swapping of positions among the geese in the V which allows the flock to fly long distances without stopping to rest. Everyone shares in the tough job.
The geese with the easiest jobs are those in the back…the last one on each end of the V. It has been observed that the stronger geese allow the weaker and older of the flock to stay in these lighter-work positions. All that honking may even be a way for the geese to encourage one another to keep flying.
If a goose becomes too sick or weak to fly, she is not abandoned. A healthy goose will stay on the ground with the sick or weak one until she is ready to fly again. While gulls are individualistic and territorial, geese are concerned about the flock as a whole, as well as their individual goose-friends.
Into this story we insert today’s verse in our Authentic Christianity study. Check out Romans 12:10.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
The kind of love that is being spoken of in this verse is the love of a friend or a family member, rather than romantic love. As Christians we are to be tenderly affectionate toward other Christians. We are to seek the good of our Christian brothers and sisters, rather than maligning them and dishonoring them. The apostle Paul echoed this admonition in Philippians 2:3 when he told the believers in Philippi to consider others better than themselves.
I will just tell you that the last part of Romans 12:10 is hugely convicting to me. HUGELY! I fail miserably at showing honor to other people. Oh sure, I honor my parents and those who are older than me. But, I sometimes get a big old ‘F’ when it comes to honoring those who seem to be making poor life choices or are different than me. This should remind us of Romans 12:3 where we are told to ‘not think more highly of ourselves than we ought’. If we take this verse seriously, we will show real appreciation, respect, and care for others. We will put their welfare before our own, and we will be Jesus-with-skin-on to them.
So, friend, are you a gull or a goose?
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