Early one morning Stewart the Frog’s curiosity sent him into the fields beyond his familiar pond. As he explored, he happened upon a container that was filled with water. Hot from hopping, he climbed in to get refreshed and re-hydrated. He was so comfortable in the little container that he fell asleep.
Meanwhile, the sun grew hot overhead. Slowly but surely, the temperature of the water in the container began to rise. Stewart didn’t notice, as he had become accustomed to the gradual change. And besides, he was feeling tired and less alert now. He had no desire to move.
A frog acquaintance named Fred hopped by and jumped into the container to visit Stewart. Fred gave a loud croak and in a flickering flash flew out of the container, screaming to Stewart, “Get out of there, dude! That water’s scorching hot.”
Stewart just smiled and sleepily, smugly replied, “You must not be as tough as I am.”
Fred shook his head, slurped a fly, and hopped back to the cool waters from whence he had come.
Meanwhile, Stewart baked in the hot afternoon sun. He did not realize that the gradual heating of the water in his little container had become life threatening. In his oblivion, complacency, and denial he went back to sleep and with one final croak—he croaked.
His story, now deemed “The Legend of Stew”, continues to be told to young toads as a lesson and warning.
I woke up this morning imagining this little story—feeling troubled by the continuing moral decline of our world and thinking of ways I can make a difference. I don’t want to be complacent about the condition of this world and like Stewart, be lulled to sleep. Several scriptures came to mind. Below, Jeremiah (the prophet, not the bullfrog) speaks to those who falsely advise their friends and neighbors with the message that everything is okay with the way they are living. He then warns his beloved Israel of her waywardness—imploring her to change:
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD. This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
And then the prophet Isaiah delivers another poignant message to his countrymen as he tries to persuade them to turn back to God.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent. Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 5:20-24)
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes something similar to the Roman culture in which he lived.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32…but go back and read the whole chapter)
Certainly these verses could be written today.
So how should Christians respond in the midst of an amoral and humanistic world?
I think of several scriptures that teach us to:
- Watch our own lives, keeping and voicing a keen distinction between truth and lies:
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible…
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Excerpts from Ephesians 5:1-21)
- Live a life of “love with skin on it”.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
Jesus gave the perfect example of loving confrontation in John 8:1-11 as he forgave a woman caught in adultery while calling her to leave her life of sin—and at the same time convicting those who wished to stone her of their self-righteous and judgmental spirit.
I believe we can and must boldly and lovingly make a difference in this world— through our lives and our voices. If we don’t love up and speak up—who will? The time is now.
However, if we, like “Stewart who became Stew”, are gradually “lulled to sleep” we will be hapless, hopeless and “hop-less” to affect change in ourselves or anyone else. Let’s pray and act in such a way to bring light to a dark world.