Consider the Serpent

by Mike McKinniss

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:24, ESV).

Consider the serpent.

He has but one instinct: self-preservation. Survive and produce progeny—that is his one and only goal. But mostly, it’s about survival. It’s about himself.

Look at him, flicking his tongue through deviously curled lips. Always in search of his next meal, the snake is never satiated. A gluttonous beast.

The serpent roams the forest floor alone. Ever solitary, he has no companion, desires no companion. But for fleeting utilitarian encounters with the opposite sex—and this only to preserve his line—he would eternally be a low-lying island.

Oh, the serpent is not indifferent to the rest of the world. He is not solipsistic. But to the snake, every other living thing, if it is not food, is an enemy. See how he curls himself up in a tangled thicket—the only embrace he will ever receive. It is protection the serpent seeks.

The serpent is driven by fear, and so must protect his life at all costs. Fear compels him to cast a slitted eye toward every creature. Wary of all, the serpent is intent on grasping tightly to his own life. He has no room in his heart for anything save himself.

Now he slithers in the dust, for his fear has brought him low.

But you are no serpent.

You are not made for fear. You are not made to cling and protect, to scratch and claw for your own existence. You are not designed to use others for your own benefit alone, to regard the world as existing for your sole benefit. The fear and solitude of the serpent’s life is not yours.

A child of God, you are made for love.

A voice you were given. A voice to reveal the innermost parts of yourself and to share your secret thoughts. Likewise, two ears hang on either side of your skull to listen to another’s story and so commune with the world. Moreover, a heart beats within your chest, a heart that longs to swell within the embrace of another.

You are made for love, and a life of love desires to stretch itself, to touch all the world—not to overpower and subsume, but to know and to be known. Love longs to serve the world.

But to live so is to risk, for a serpent lies in wait. Strike he will, often without warning or provocation. And he may, with a flash of fang and a shock of pain, inject poison into your veins. To live from love is to open yourself to death.

Die you may.  Nay, die you will. But when you live from a place of love and seek not to preserve yourself, when you reject fear and its solitude, you live as you are created. Vulnerable you may seem, yet you live and you die in the safest place on earth. For the life of love rests in the arms of the resurrecting God of love.

Love, and you will rise to new life, while the serpent remains on his belly.

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