Based on a story I heard or read somewhere (I think by William Willimon)
(…continued) A family is out for a drive on a Sunday afternoon. It is a pleasant afternoon, and they go at a leisurely pace down the country road. Suddenly, the two children begin to shout to their father, “Daddy, daddy, stop the car! There’s a kitten back there on the side of the road!”
The father says, “So what if there is a kitten on the side of the road? We are having a relaxing drive.”
“But Daddy,” cry the children, “you must stop and pick it up.”
“No,” Daddy says, “I do not have to stop and pick it up.”
“But Daddy, if you don’t, it will die.”
“Well then,” says Daddy, “it will die. That’s nature’s way. We can’t pick up all the dying animals in the world. We do not have room for even one more animal. Our house is already starting to look like a zoo. We have enough animals, and we aren’t getting anymore. No more animals.”
“But Daddy, are you just going to let it die?”
“Be quiet, children, we are trying to have a pleasant drive.”
“Oh, no,” the kids plead, “we never thought our Daddy would be so mean and cruel as to let a little kitten die. Mom, what kind of father do we have?”
Finally the mother turns to her husband and says, “Dear, you’ll have to stop.” So he reluctantly turns the car around, returns to the spot, and pulls off to the side of the road. “You kids stay in the car. I’ll go take a look at it.” He goes to the little kitten, and sees that it is just skin and bones, sore-eyed, and full of fleas. He reaches down, and the kitten, with its last bit of energy, bares its teeth and hisses, ready to attack, but it lacks the strength. Daddy picked up the kitten by the loose skin at the neck, brings it over to the car and says, “Don’t touch it, it probably has leprosy.”
Well, that’s the end of the afternoon ride, and back home they all go. When they get to the house the children give the kitten several baths, feed it a half gallon of milk, and continue their pleading, “Can we keep it, daddy, can we keep it, please can we keep it? Where can we put its bed?”
The exasperated father says, “Sure, keep it. It can go in my office. I’ll take my computer and papers and go out in the backyard and do my work on the picnic table. The whole house is already a zoo. Do you want our bedroom, too? Maybe on the next ride we can find a wolverine with rabies and a pregnant raccoon, and they can go in there.”
So the kids fix up a comfortable bed, fit for a king, and continue to care for their new pet.
Several weeks pass. One day the father walks in and feels something rub against his leg. He looks down and sees the cat, now grown and doing fine. After carefully checking to make sure nobody was watching, he reaches down to the cat. This time, it does not bare its claws and hiss; instead, it arches its back to receive his touch. He pets it gently, and the cat purrs its appreciation.
Is this the same cat that was the frightened, hurt, hissing kitten on the side of the road? No, it is now a very different kind of animal. And why? Because the cat was chosen, chosen to be loved and cared for. The cat did not choose that family, the family chose the cat. They saved the cat’s life and it was transformed.
What was that cat’s choice in the matter? Back on that day on the side of the road, the kitten chose to resist its only hope and salvation. The kitten did not understand that he was about to be saved, and so it tried to fight off its ‘savior.’ Only because that family chose to pick up that kitten, only because of their choice, was it saved. The kitten did not chose the family, the family choose the kitten, and in time, the kitten surrendered to their love.
“You did not choose me, I chose you,” Jesus said. Like the kitten, we are chosen, even though rebellious and sinful. We are then we are scrubbed up by God’s love and forgiveness, if we will allow it; and then we are given a life to live and a place to call home, now and forever. Then, by God’s love, we finally begin to become the kind of people he wants us to be. “Faith comes by hearing,” says the Bible, so listen up: God has chosen you.
(continued… one more illustration tomorrow)
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 — Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
O Lord, never allow us to think we can stand by ourselves and not need you, our greatest need.
–John Donne (1572-1631), English poet and pastor