Originally published December 15, 2010
Dear Mom and Dad-
Thank you for not getting me a pet monkey when I was a kid, even though I begged and begged for one.
Lately, and I’m not sure why, I have become fascinated with a television show on the Animal Planet channel called Fatal Attractions. It’s all about people who keep dangerous exotic animals as pets. Usually, the pet owner ends up dead by the end of the show, hence the title. It’s not a program for the faint of heart.
People keep the strangest animals – venomous snakes, giant lizards, bears, and, yes, even apes – despite the fact that they are known to be dangerous. Now, if you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s like I did, you might remember that there was a spate of movies and TV shows at some point back then – B.J. and the Bear, Cannonball Run II, etc. – that featured cute little chimpanzees and their human companions. So, you might be thinking what I was thinking the other day when an episode of Fatal Attractions focusing on pet chimpanzees came on: “How could those adorable little animals be dangerous?”. They wear hats and overalls, give hugs and kisses, and even communicate in a rudimentary way. My parents told me the reason I couldn’t have one was that they carried germs and that they would stink up the house.
Well, apparently, chimps are much more sinister than smelly. Even when people have taken them in as babies and raised them as their own children, many chimps, upon reaching adolescence, have turned violent and attacked their owners or others.
Moreover, the way they attack is particularly gruesome. Snakes will bite whichever of your body parts is closest. Bears flail their paws around indiscriminately, mauling whatever is in their pathway. Chimpanzees, however, attack systematically. They focus specifically on severing small appendages (ears, eyes, nose, lips, fingers, toes, and genitals) first, before moving on to a more “macro” assault on their victims.
Interestingly, most of the story lines on Fatal Attractions follow the same pattern. The pet owner is somewhat reclusive and secretive about owning the animal – in many cases, because the species is illegal to own or has been illegally obtained. Some owners have even refrained from calling 911 when attacked out of fear that the animal will be confiscated.
Additionally, the fatal attack usually comes after months or years of much smaller assaults. A nip here, a show of aggression there. Those closest to the pet owner warn him repeatedly that the animal is dangerous, but he refuses to listen, thinking that the small attacks will be the extent of the animal’s aggression. He believes he has control over the animal and that the animal respects, loves, and trusts him enough not to hurt him.
And, on this show, he always turns out to be wrong.
When it comes to sin, are we any different than these pet owners? First Peter 5:8 says:
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
At first, sin looks more like a cute, cuddly lion cub. It’s small. It seems harmless enough. We have control over the situation. And besides, who could resist a little nuzzle with something so adorable?
We keep the cub a secret because we know we’re not supposed to have it, or maybe because others just wouldn’t understand how it’s really OK to keep it, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Time goes by. The cub gets bigger. It’s not so cute anymore, but we still love it and can’t let it go. We ignore the warnings that lions are dangerous. It begins to show signs of aggression from time to time, but we still think we’re in control. And then, eventually, comes the final attack.
The extent of the damage depends on one thing, and one thing only – whether or not we have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Just like the victims who refused to call 911 out of fear that their animals would be confiscated, a person who has never turned away from his sin and cried out to Jesus to be saved from it will die a horrible death. His physical death may look peaceful, but it’s in the afterlife of Hell that Satan will devour him for eternity.
The person who is saved won’t die that eternal death in hell, but he will bear the scars of his sin in this life. Maybe he’ll just lose a finger; maybe he’ll be horribly mutilated. His ministry might be destroyed, or maybe his marriage, his business, his reputation, or a friendship.
You see, on the episode of Fatal Attractions dealing with chimps, the victim didn’t die. The chimp tore off his nose, lips, ears, and fingers, and gouged out one of his eyes, in addition to doing other damage. The man is still alive, but he will be horribly disfigured for the rest of his life. He can still function and have a purposeful life, but he will never be able to get back what he lost.
And so it is when we cuddle up with sin and it eventually turns on us. When we repent, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us, but the scars remain for the rest of our lives. He can certainly still use us, but we can never get back what we’ve lost.
What to do?
But resist [Satan], firm in your faith, 1 Peter 5:9a
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Run. Run for your life.