Turning the Other Beak

Bird on feeder

My wife and I have a blue bird feeder shaped like a house hanging just outside our living room window. In fact, I can see it very well from my recliner as I’m seated right next to the window. All I have to do it lean over in the front of my chair, turn to my right, and look right at those birds through the glass just a couple of feet away.

We enjoy watching different kinds of birds—from finches to sparrows to cardinals with their many colors, sizes, and sounds—landing on the feeder looking for something to eat. With beaks wide open, snatching up a tiny seed no bigger than a BB, rolling the seed around in their beaks, peeling off the outer shell, then gulping the remainder down, and all within the blink of an eye, is like poetry in motion.

It doesn’t seem to take a whole lot of seed to satisfy their hunger before they speedily fly off somewhere else. It reminds me of what people say about someone who doesn’t put much food on their plate: “She (or he) eats like a bird.”

One day, as we were sitting in our living room, my wife and I heard some rather loud squawking outside the window. I said to her, “What is going on out there?” “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I’ve heard that noise before.”

We both got up to take a close look. And we were surprised to see one small bird actually bullying another slightly bigger bird. No kidding. The smaller bird was just raising fury as if scolding the other bird who was merely minding his own business, trying to eat peacefully. But that pesky bird would not leave the other one alone. He’d even use his beak  as a weapon to peck at the other bird’s beak, as though trying to provoke a fight. I said to my wife, “What a bully!”

The victimized bird tried to get away from the bully bird by walking around the edge of the feeder to the other side. But the bully bird kept on stalking him, squawking louder than ever. A time or two, the victimized bird pecked back at the other bird just to show he wouldn’t be bossed around. But all in all, he seemed to turn the other beak and take the whole thing in stride.

In the meantime, however, that bully bird just would not quit even when the other bird flew away. He kept on following that victimized bird from tree to tree, hounding him where ever he flew.

A little bit later, they both returned to the feeder. And would you believe that bully bird was still at it? But in spite of the trouble that bully was causing, we admired that other bird for his patience and endurance. It didn’t keep that poor bird from eating the seed he could get to.

Now, we can’t figure out why that bully bird was taking it out on the other one. Did it have to do with protecting his territory as animals are instinctively prone to do? Assuming they were male birds, did it have to do with fighting over a female bird?

Interestingly, the bird being bullied was more colorful having a reddish color in his head and feathers. The bully bird, on the other hand, was brown and plainer looking. Moreover, the bully bird was a tad smaller than the one he was picking on. So, was he trying to compensate for his color and size, and make himself feel better by berating and bossing the other one around?

I ask that last question because, if you didn’t know any better, you’d almost think that the bully bird was jealous or prejudiced toward the other bird. I doubt, however, this was really the case. Animals act out of instinct not emotion like humans. But it does give us an intriguing analogy from which to draw.

There may have been times when you’ve felt like that bullied bird. Or, perhaps you’ve seen someone else treated that way. It’s a pitiful situation, isn’t it? And, if I may say, it usually goes afoul like fowls that appear to fuss and feud all the time. Feathers tend to fly when one person bullies the other person around, and the victim who has more than he or she can take, finally tries to strike back. Here’s where Christians must step back and consider what Jesus would do under those circumstances.

Jesus, who was himself bullied more than one time by self-righteous, arrogant men, said something astounding: “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also,” (Matthew 5:38-39, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Like the bird who turned his other beak, Jesus turned the other cheek when he suffered, bled, and died for our sins. For when it comes to bullies, turning the other cheek is being able to keep on doing what’s right in spite of the wrong others do to you, trying to keep you from your good work. Of course, like that bird that was bullied, you might be continuously hounded and picked on. Jesus said it would happen to anyone who sincerely followed him (John 15:18-27). But, also like that bird, you can endure with patience taking it with one seed at a time.

Jesus made it clear that our seed is the Word (Mark 4:14; Luke 8:18). And when we spiritually feed upon it through love, we find strength to overcome the way those bullies treat us (Matthew. 5:40-48). For our reward is knowing that in the end, there’s something far better coming that no bully can ever take away (Matthew 5:10-12).

And then there was another occasion. Again, we heard two birds making some noise. I looked and saw one of the birds pecking at the other bird’s beak. At first I thought, “Here we go again! Another bully bird.” But upon closer examination, I realized this time there was no bullying. Instead, one bird was actually feeding the seeds to the other bird. The one bird would pick up a seed with his beak, and very quickly poke it into the opened beak of the other one waiting to be fed. I am told this was an instinct for male birds when providing food for their female birds.

Just think of it: No squawking. No fighting. No bullying. Just teamwork, cooperation, and mutual contentment between those two birds. You could say this fine feathered couple flew away, happy as larks. Could we learn a lesson from this scene? You bet!

We have much to gain when each one looks out for the other and goes about doing good rather than picking at each other. God wants his people to work together through Christ (Ephesians 4:13). He gives each person a role to play without our having to worry about the blessings he sends.

Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Of much more value are we than even the birds for God has promised his Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). And if we’re seriously making his Kingdom and righteousness our priority in life, then we can expect many wonderful results as we bravely endure the bullies of our day.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a country melody by Breakin’ Ground titled, “He Turned the Other Cheek,” http://youtu.be/il6gMDelDQw

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