All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (II Corinthians 5:18 NIV)
Several years ago, one of my former youth (now a Pastor in Germany and coming back to the U.S. soon) shared a story that embodies evangelism. We are all sinners. We are all less than own our own. Christ gives us a future and a hope. We are called to share that hope in the ministry of reconciliation. This Christmas season as we recognize a Savior born in lowly means, (in a day of us versus them) we would do well to begin a ministry of reconciliation in our Sunday School classes. Here is his story.
The mangy old cat By Mason F. Smith
… a story from my life
Jacob and Thomas were two of the meanest farm boys in three counties. They did everything they could to raise havoc on their small country farm. They chased the chickens, terrorized the dog, and tormented the goats. They would even take turns riding the great big “hawg” that their daddy had named Big Foot, a practice that Big Foot absolutely hated. Yet there was this one nasty, mangy old cat that would never let them get close enough to do any damage. It wasn’t really their cat anyway. It was just an old stray that had wandered into the hay loft one day, looking for mice no doubt, and just never left. The boy’s daddy didn’t mind at all because the mouse population had greatly diminished. The boys, however, did mind the cat’s presence. Not because they wanted it to leave, but because the cat would never let them get close enough to touch. Thomas, especially, was bothered by this. Sometimes it was all he could talk about. He even named the cat– Wild.
Then one day, barefoot and skin browned by the southern sun, the boys were wandering through the dark woods that encircled the family farm when they noticed something strange. There was something furry half hidden in the leaves and ferns. The boys drew closer and produced the official investigative tool of all farm boys—a stick. After poking the lump of fur, and turning over a few of the leaves that covered it, the boys realized that it was Wild! He was barely alive. Something, a wild cat or an opossum maybe, had torn this wretched little cat up like liver in a dog’s bowl. Immediately Jacob raised his foot high in the air and announced that somebody needed to put this sorry thing out of its misery. “Don’t you touch him,” Thomas demanded! Jacob stared at his brother in confusion and responded, “Why, he’s half dead. Besides, he aint no good anyway.” “Don’t you touch him,” Thomas insisted, “He’s my cat!” “What do you mean, ‘your cat,’ that Cat doesn’t even like you. That’s just that mangy old cat that lives up in the hay loft,” Jacob continued to argue. None the less, Thomas persisted, “That’s my cat!” With that, he crouched down, took off his shirt and wrapped the little cat up. Cradling him like a mother holds her child, he carried the cat the entire mile back to the house, thorns tearing at his naked back, mosquitoes feasting on his exposed skin.
When the boys finally reached the house, Thomas got an old box and some old sheets (though his mama didn’t think they were all that old) and he made a bed for the feral feline that he found and claimed that day. The next day he convinced his mama to take him and the cat to the vet. They gave the cat some shots, some medicine, and healing balm for its wounds. Thomas cared for that cat like it was his own child. Every day when he came home from school he would immediately find the cat and hold him until his mama would make him put it down for bed. But even then Thomas would sneak back down stairs and get that cat, climb into the bed, place the cat on his chest, and the two would sleep like that all night.
Soon the cat began to grow stronger. He could even walk around the room a little bit, with Thomas’ hand supporting him underneath. Then one day the family realized that the cat was completely healed. The boy’s mother told him that now he would have to take the cat outside and let it go. So, with tears in his eyes, and after countless hours of pouting and arguing, Thomas took the old cat out side and let him go. But the cat didn’t go anywhere! The cat was completely in love with Thomas. Everywhere Thomas went, the cat followed close behind. If Thomas was in the hayloft, Wild was in the hayloft. If Thomas was in the bean field, Wild was in the bean field. If Thomas was driving the tractor, Wild was sitting right in his lap. It was amazing. Soon, however, the truly amazing thing would happen.
One day Thomas came home from school and, as always, there was Wild—sitting on the steps and ready to give Thomas his full attention and love. This time, however, Wild was not alone. Right beside him was another mangy old cat—black with little white socks. The two were just sitting there as if to say, “Uh, yes, this is Bubba and he will be staying with us for a little while.” A few days latter two more mangy old cats showed up. Now there were four mangy old cats for Thomas’ care. By the last count of all the pilgrim cats, there were over twenty mangy old cats living on that little farm. It was as if that first mangy old cat had gone out and rounded up all of his mangy old cat buddies and said, “Y’all come with me to my master’s house. He’s been good to me, and I know he’ll be good to you.”
… And that’s the ministry of reconciliation, just one mangy old cat showing another mangy old cat the way to the master’s house. And if a mangy old cat can do that, then what can we do?