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Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. Romans 14:13 (NIV)
The sun was just rising as Ed and Henry stepped out of the house. The coffee and the memories of days past were left behind. Today, the tradition of these two best friends getting together for the opening day of rabbit hunting season would continue for another year. These were not your ordinary best friends because they had been through too much over the years. From the passing of their dear wives to their loneliness in retirement, they were always there for each other. Each Sunday, they would sit beside each other in the little country church and listen to the Word of God. It seemed like they knew each other well enough to make words unnecessary and, when troubles loomed on the horizon, each knew the words to share with the other.
Henry carried his very old shotgun as Ed headed for his pickup to grab his from it’s case. These days had started much the same way for the past fifty years but today would be a little different than the last few years. As they headed to the back of the pickup truck and the dog carrying box on the back, Ed introduced Henry to his new pure bred beagle and explained how he had the best pedigree that money could buy. Henry let out a whistle as he eyed this fine hunting dog and Ed stood a little taller with pride. With Henry’s whistle, another of his trusted friends, Jake his nine year old arthritic and half blind dog, came and stood by his side. With a pat on the head of this faithful dog, they set off for the woods and brush that had grown up on the farm. Henry could not take care of the place like he used to and that was a struggle for him to accept but it did make for good rabbit hunting every year. Ed’s prized beagle was a beautiful site to watch as it ranged far ahead with it’s nose to the ground. Meanwhile, Jake stayed close to the leg of his master.
After a few minutes, it was easy to see that the prized beagle was on the scent trail of the season’s first rabbit. What started with an occasional bark soon was constant as the rabbit leapt from it’s hiding place and began to run. The two old men stopped and just enjoyed the familiar sound of the beagle giving chase. Their minds drifted back to hunts from previous years and the hours of fellowship that they had shared. After a few minutes, Ed stared down at Jake as he stayed close to the leg of Henry. Without giving it a thought, Ed asked “What’s wrong with your dog?” and followed that with “Why don’t you get yourself a real hunting dog like mine?” A sad look came over the face of Henry as he answered “Don’t criticize someone else’s dog”. With that said, the conversation between the two was over and it was back to listening to the barks of the pure bred beagle giving chase to the rabbit. Just as quickly as the barking and the chase had began, the barking ceased and total silence was in the air. After a few minutes, Jake sprang to attention and set off at a trot. A smile began to form on Henry’s face as his old dog made for the brush. In just a short time, the old dog let out a bark and Ed’s pure bred dog went to join him in the hunt. Once again, the rabbit took off from it’s hiding spot and the chase was on. The pure bred beagle gave chase but Jake headed back to the side of his old friend and master. Finally, the rabbit made it’s circle back around to it’s original hiding place and Ed raised the old shotgun. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the movement of his old hunting buddy and turned to look. He saw Henry’s old shotgun laying on the ground and the back of his friend as he headed for the house. He heard the words “don’t criticize someone else’s dog” as he watched his friend go with his old, arthritic, half-blind dog beside him. The tears started to flow from Ed’s eyes as he watched the two of them go. He realized that there wouldn’t be anymore hunts with his friend. His thoughts turned to the old beagle that he had left at home and he realized how much he had hurt the master by criticizing his servant. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. James 1:26 (NIV)