Warning! Don't Be Misled!

 I was watching a funny video about some "crying" Billy Goats on a social media site this week. "Maaah! Maaah!" Their unusually loud bleating was both humorous and eerily unsettling as well. This reminded me of an incident involving our youngest son about forty years ago. I estimate that Marc was about two years old at the time. He was in his stroller at the Fort Worth petting zoo when all at once we heard him crying out in panic while trying to get out of his constraints. 

"Watch out for the Billy Goat!"
Photo credit: Sergio Souza, unspash.com

You know how you will hear something, but can't quite put it all together. Well, I had heard a surprising sound seconds early but was not focused on Marc sitting behind me. It was the sound of tearing and crunching. As I looked back at Marc, I saw the reason for his distress. A small kid goat at his eye level was chomping on the remains of a warning label he had quickly snatched from the seat back of the stroller. Marc must have been thinking, "That hungry animal is chewing on my stroller! What's next?!!" And he was not going to stay around to see that!

We have enjoyed retelling this story over the years. To this day, we will warn each other when we see any garment labels that are not tucked in where they should be by saying, "Watch out! The Billy Goat will get you!" 😁

There are numerous warnings in the Bible. James gives us a succinct warning against deception, "Don't be misled, my brothers and sister" (1:16 NLT). We receive numerous nuisance messages, emails, and phone solicitations each day. We even get threats to take immediate action or suffer reprisals. We have learned not to over react to this "fake news!"

We are also getting quite disciplined in doing our homework to "fact check" some of the information being hurled our way! As the old adage advises, "If it sounds too good to be true, then... it is too good to be true!" I still believe that common sense goes a long way. There are deceivers, hucksters, and unethical folks out there for sure, who want to make a profit or gain an advantage from another's vulnerability. This means that we think before acting. Pray before deciding. Allow yourself to have a "cooling off" period where you can consult with a good friend.

I remember Jesus' dictum and instruction in sending out the Twelve on mission, "Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and as harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). The latter part of Jesus' instruction about being "harmless" is not an excuse for careless naivety or to suspend judgment. Rather, we should exercise both wise discernment and maintain a general faith in humanity. 

It is possible in times when we are swirling in a sea of disinformation to think that everyone is being dishonest and manipulative in their purposes. I admit at times to becoming jaded in my ability to trust others! However, I still want to believe that there are a majority of good people out there with sincere opinions and good intentions. Promoting conversations and building relationships are still better approaches than resorting to hostile confrontation that inevitably pushes people away! Engaging others, asking questions, showing respect and praying for others is still the Christian ideal!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor, 
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com


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