We’ve all seen it from time to time. Traveling in our vehicles, we glance up in the distant sky and spot a kettle of vultures, circling. We immediately know that there must be something dead nearby, a foul carcass of some kind that attracted these birds that prey on the dead.vultures

Don’t you wish this alert system also worked in our personal lives? Can you imagine the pitfalls we could avoid in life if we had a similar warning sign, circling the rotting circumstances ahead signaling dead situations, people, places or things? We would immediately know not to invest in a relationship with that person, or take that particular job, or agree to join that ministry if we were aware of the vultures attached to it feeding off of its remains. Oh, the heartache and disappointment that could be avoided if only this was indeed reality.

But this truly can be our reality.

The wisdom that Jesus expressed in Matthew 7:15-20 lets us know that toxic people, places and things can be recognized by their “fruit,” thus creating an opportunity for detour. Verse 16  specifically states, “You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” If a person has a track record of causing death in everything that they do, then we should be cautious not to enter into relationship with them. If a person is full of negativity, we should use that as a sign to avoid that person.

The same holds true for toxic places and things. Be keen to your surroundings. Vultures are not drawn to life. This is one of the first clues that you are in the wrong place. We must utilize the spiritual discernment the Holy Spirit equips us with before entering new situations.

Let people’s actions prove what they speak. Let the Holy Spirit and common sense guide your decision-making.

Let history serve as our vultures.



And I gotta be more stubborn than this wall that I’m pushin’ at — convinced of the vision like ‘What are ya’ll lookin’ at?’


I recently saw a documentary about people with eating disorders.** What really stuck out to me was the way these people perceived themselves.  One person at a doctor’s office was asked to draw an outline of themselves using a magic marker on a life-size sheet of paper taped to a wall—the outline was supposed to be a reflection of their self-image.  Once this person sketched the outline, the attending physician then stood the patient up against the paper and drew a true-to-life outline with another color marker.  The results were amazing to see.  The origdistortioninal outline was completely inaccurate—pitifully thin and a total distortion of reality.  Until the person could step back and look at themselves, they could not understand how warped their worldview had become.

That documentary made me think of how distorted human beings’ ways of thinking can be.  Sometimes our own perception of truth is so distorted that we actually have to step out of the situation that we are in to realize the truth.  I hadn’t thought much about this idea until we began a teaching series on love that we have been learning for months in our church services.  The series made me reflect on the record-setting movie “The Passion of the Christ”, written and directed by Mel Gibson, who went through a very intense process trying to get the film approved.  Many people tried to prevent the movie’s release because it portrayed a particular group of people in a very negative light. In this case, one might argue, this group held a distorted view in the opposite way – thinking more highly of themselves than perhaps they ought (Romans 12:3). As a result there didn’t seem to be much positive interest in the movie, which didn’t make sense to me until I read an interesting online commentary. The commentary’s author basically made the point that the movie was embellished to depict Christ’s crucifixion as being driven by emotion rather than by commitment to a Divine mission to save humanity (Romans 8:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

The media knows that such an emotional sentiment is easier for humans to relate to because we are all emotional beings.  But sometimes emotion is what prevents us from loving people unconditionally, often because of the hurt we might feel from a painful emotional experience.  Ironically, The Passion left many viewers feeling deeply saddened about the horror involved in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ—yet these feelings can make us forget the reasoning behind why this event was necessary.  In fact, it was not such a terrible event, but a glorious one.  Because of Christ’s crucifixion, all people can now be forgiven for all our sins against God.

The response to this movie gives us an idea of how distorted our ways of thinking can be.  We must seek to love unconditionally just as Jesus loves us—based on God’s enabling and not based on our own fickle emotions.  Jesus loves us so much that he sacrificed His life so we could have a chance to live eternally.  Yes, Jesus felt hurt and anger over the sinful condition of the world (Mark 3:5; 11:15-18), but not once did Jesus stop loving anyone because of His hurt.  Not once was His love distorted, which is one lesson that Jesus wants to teach us (Mark 12:30-31).  He used His own life to teach us how to live ours.  When we base our lives on feelings, our views of life become distorted and that is not the way God loves and cares for us.  When drawing an outline of our lives, nothing will ever be distorted from God’s view, only from ours.

**Note: This article is an update of the original version written in 2011.