Vol.XVIII No.V Pg.6
July 1981

A Girdled Tree

Robert F. Turner

The solitary old oak towered above other trees. For two hundred years travelers enjoyed its shade. Names and dates carved in its bark tell of ancient sojourners and loves. With roots deep in the hillside, the old tree has endured repeated droughts. The fury of summer storms wrestled and twisted its boughs. Its canopy met the blistering heat of summer and supported the weight of winter snows. Despite time and adversity, it stands — trunk bent; limbs twisted. It challenges things that laid low the other trees of the forest.

Three small boys with rusty hatchet answer the challenge. They climb the hill and defiantly shout their battle cry — "Timberrrr". They attack. And they tire quickly. They retreat and rest. Another shout, and they hack away again. People smile as they hear the warning shout and watch them flail at the tree. That old giant is in no danger of being felled by such small woodsmen and puny tools. No one is surprised the tree still stands at sunset as the weary boys trudge home. Only a trivial looking scar around the massive truck testifies to the daylong assault.

That oak is not the same nor will it ever be. It is as good as dead. No matter that its trunk is sturdy; its roots still buried deep in the earth; its limbs still strong. That hacking cut through bark and cortex. The tree is girdled! Spring sadly witnesses its futile struggle to leaf.

More tragic still are churches who ignore the girdling scar. They are cut off from life — dying. Situations vary but certain scars adorn almost all dead or dying churches. SIN IS TOLERATED. Which sin can be safely ignored? All violate law and affront the lawgiver (Jas. 2:11). And sin tolerated is progressive — like the demon returning with seven worse than himself (Mt. 12:45-). A church is a clan of sinners — at war with sin. To the Corinthian's credit, they did not ignore their grievous sins. Paul rebuked; they mourned, were zealous, indignant, and avenged the wrong. Thus, they "cleared themselves" (2 Cor. 7:7-). "One thing thou lackest" is always a life and death challenge.

THE PULPIT IS RESTRICTED AGAINST TRUTH. No church can rightly forbid preaching truth on any Bible subject. Brethren should be ashamed of even wanting to avoid truth. They should demand preachers "know nothing save Jesus" (1 Cor. 2:2) and "keep back nothing that is profitable" (Acts 20:20). Suppressing truth implies that people (1) practice sin, (2) are soft in that respect, or (3) are appeasing friends who sin. All are deadly. Any church has but one defense — truth in the hearts of the saints.

ATTITUDES BECOME INDIFFERENT. This is "root-rot" — a sure death. It insures a decline in performing even mechanical duties. Capable preachers will be ignored, prayer forgotten, Bible reading neglected. This insidious disease spreads until it infects all. Beware! (Rev. 3:16).

Does the church in your town have girdle marks on it? Joe Fitch 6326 Peacepipe San Antonio, Texas