By Daniel H. King
Having been brought up around a Tennessee farm where “coon hounds” were very much a part of life, I can remember many times watching those old dogs clawing and scratching the sides of their heads frantically in the area about their oversized ears. Some unseen aggravation apparently was bringing them untold discomfort. They would shake their overabundant ears from side to side and rub the sides of their heads against whatever object was available in order to relieve in some small measure their obvious malaise. But it did little good except to momentarily ease the itching and burning sensation that they could never describe with words but which their actions so graphically portrayed as to leave little to the imagination.
Sometimes I would try to help by taking one of the poor creatures aside and raising the floppy ears and looking inside for the trouble. Always the animal would fight and try to escape from my clutches, as though I were trying to hurt him in some way. My good intentions did not make much of an impression on the thoughtless beast. The only thing that mattered to him was the momentary impeding of his freedom and the slight discomfort of that which he surely knew I was about to do.
But shortly I would get him hemmed up and restrained such that it was possible to go about my business. And, my examination almost inevitably revealed the same problem every time. Usually inside the convolutions of the canine’s hearing mechanism a little insect had attached itself and was gradually growing fat on the blood that it was drawing from the dog. It was a case of Dermacentor variabilis infestation. In other words, he had a tick. Sometimes he had several.
Very carefully I would remove each one and crush it. But even that was quite a chore. Anyone who has ever tried to kill one of the little pests knows that they are as tough an insect as is to be found anywhere. And it is plain why they are. They have to remain attached to the animal for several days in order to draw out a large enough supply of blood to engorge themselves. During that time the scratching, clawing, and head shaking constantly goes on. Yet it brings them little difficulty. Their armaments are sufficient to withstand not only this – but sometimes even several attempts on my part to crush them with all of my weight against a hard-soled shoe.
The bug’s life is spent in making a nuisance of himself sucking the blood from the veins of his host. It does not matter to him that he drives the animal to the periphery of insanity. All that matters to him is that he gets what he wants out of the deal. The poor dog is none of his concern. He carries numerous diseases, secretes neurotoxins (nerve poisons) that sometimes cause paralysis or even death, and causes terrible pain to “man’s best friend.” But he does not give any of that a second thought. He is concerned only for himself and getting his.
Now, to my mind at least, it appears that a very real parallel exists between the blood-sucking vermin that inhabits the interior of a dog’s ear and some people and the problems that they create in the church of Christ. I know that some will doubtless think me harsh in drawing such an “unkind” parallel. However, I think it is altogether in the scriptural tradition to do so. Jesus called Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:22), the unfaithful in Israel “vipers” (Matt. 12:34; 23:33); He likened the heathen gentiles to “dogs” (Matt. 15:26), and those who rejected the truth to “swine” (Matt. 7:6). Peter said those who return to a life of sin are like dogs lapping up their own vomit and a washed hog returning to the mire (2 Pet. 2:22). So then, I think it very much in line to liken church troubles and especially trouble makers to a tick in a dog’s ear.
How are they similar? In many ways. To begin with, the troubles that occur within churches are most irritating and vexing. God placed the church in this sin-ridden world for the purpose of holding forth the Word of Life, Jesus and His message (Phil. 2:15-16). Yet, who would not admit that the strifes that have arisen in local congregations have restrained and even squelched the work of Christ among men? Brethren spend much of their time arguing, bickering and fighting one another, instead of carrying the gospel to others. We are like that poor canine that should be out hot on the trail of a raccoon – but spends much of his “dog’s life” clawing and scratching and whining. Poor creature! But how much more pitiable is the congregation irritated by the troublemaker! When John the apostle gave thought to one such menance to the common good, he made all aware that action was the answer: “Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth . . .” (3 Jn. 10).
But it must also be noted that the mar. or woman or group that makes trouble is much like the little tick in that they are tough. Many times they have struggled through a number of previous battles and, though scarmd and bleeding, they have been toughened and made meaner by the skirmishes of yesteryear. Every new preacher that moves in thinks that he will be able to handle the problem. Poor fellow! Soon he will also be a victim of the toxins that they emit – each in his turn. Most go down fighting, but they go down.
Too, there is similarity between the two in the fact that the tick and the troublemaker both can, and at times do, kill their host. The host of the tick is a mere dog. But the host of the troublemaker is a congregation of the household of faith. And, dear reader, there is not a thing upon the face of this earth that is more precious. For that usually small body is made up of the saved from that community and is the hope of that village or city or town. Jesus is preached there. The Bible is studied there. God is glorified in word and deed by those that worship there. It may be that the hope of the world will be sounded forth from there and a whole multitude will hear and believe and become obedient. They are the body of Christ among men. But sometimes they all become discouraged and quit because of a single troublemaker who cares only for himself and getting his. He kills his host. Howbeit, his host is not a worthless canine. It is the church of our Savior. And when he kills it he kills the spiritual body of Jesus: The lowliest of vermin are more to be pitied and deemed less reprehensible than that person or group. For ticks kill their host for the sake of their own life and the lives of their offspring. He who troubles the body of Christ, however, has only pride to defend and save. Surely the tick is more to be admired!
Also, there is a solution, though. It is not an easy one. Nor is it pleasant. On that account it usually is put off until it either is not possible or would not do any good. Simply put, it is this: get rid of the trouble maker. Listen to Jesus: “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:17); and to Paul: “mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18); “A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10).
There are so many (one would be too many) congregations where there will be no success or progress until “the tick is pulled out”, so to speak. I am not talking about the congregation where you worship, am I? Worse yet, I am not talking about you, am I?
Truth Magazine XXIII: 17, pp. 281-282
April 26, 1979