It pays to know the ways of your enemy

By Curtis K. Shelburne

“Thou shalt not kill.”

Well, nobody’s perfect.

I actually committed a killing right in the sanctuary of our church awhile back.

No, I didn’t throw someone into an irreversible coma by preaching them to death during a service. I’m shocked and disappointed you would even think such a thing!

But kill I did, yea, verily, while proclaiming God’s word from the very pulpit itself.

It was a fly. And it was driving me crazy.

A late autumn Sunday, it was the time of year when every time the door is opened a soon-to-be-frozen fly (or ten) zooms through the door. Also the time of year when somebody invariably props a door open and a veritable nation of flies moves in seeking asylum.

I refuse to give asylum to flies. I refuse to coexist with flies. And if you’ve never tried preaching with a kamikaze fly buzzing around your head, you can’t possible hate them as much as your pastor does.

You’ve probably heard the story of the old preacher who had just intoned, “He was a stranger, and I took him in!” whereupon a suicidal fly zipped into his mouth and down his gullet. I’d prefer not to re-enact that event.

I’ve heard of preachers in frontier days preaching with a loaded six-shooter stashed under the pulpit. I’ve never yet myself felt the need to preach armed. But the Sunday in question took place, as I recall, on a Saturday after a wedding, and I’d already been fighting the flies. I’d absentmindedly left a fly-swatter under the pulpit. So when the fly started harassing me that Sunday morning, the weapon was there. Taking a break from tormenting me, he lit on the pulpit, I reached down, grabbed the instrument of his demise, and put us both out of our misery. Hardly missed a beat.

On a Sunday a few weeks later, I sleepily opened the door to my study at the church, early as usual on Sunday mornings, and was greeted to the drone of a fly that sounded like a B-52 bomber. I didn’t have time for it, but I knew there would be no peace until that pest was dead. I almost needed a shotgun, but ten minutes later he was dispatched, and as I lifted his body, the size of a turkey buzzard, into the trash can, I wondered if he should maybe be embalmed or cremated out of concern for public health.

Flies are the enemy.

By the way, did you know that flies take off backwards? You’ll have a leg up on the filthy pests if you aim your weapon a bit toward their south end. It pays to know your enemy.

We live, I’m afraid, in a world twisted and tainted by Satan, the worst and most disgusting enemy of all. We’re warned that he “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” It pays to know his ways so we can take evasive action.

But, as is so often the case, the best defense here is a good offense: never take your eyes off the Savior. He’s far stronger than the worst enemy of all.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at