There are a number of species of snakes that, while not inviting, are not venomous. The rattlesnake is most definitely not one of them. If you hear the classic sound of this viper's rattling tail, you know to get as far away as possible before becoming its next meal. The adult rattler always gives this little shake of the tail before striking. Maybe this is some sort of forewarning or maybe it just has such confidence that it can get you, that it will tell you it's coming. (Can you tell I'm not a fan of snakes?)
But even more dangerous than the adult rattlesnake is their children. These snakes are not born with rattles on their tails; those develop as the snake grows. It also takes a while for younger rattlesnakes to learn how to restrain how much venom they release when they bite. So before a rattlesnake becomes a full-fledged adult, it is far more dangerous if it bites you, and you won't see it coming!
This sort of behavior can be found in human children as well. I've seen a number of news stories recently that describe children (even into high school age) committing what can only be described as despicable acts against each other. Obviously, adults are not exempt from these kinds of mean acts, but they tend to be more subtle about them. Children can be very blatant in their contempt of each other, and many of them haven't harnessed any self-control in their lives. They don't mince words, and they make their feelings known.
This, of course, is a result of the Fall. Our sinful nature makes itself very evident from an early age. And not one person on this earth is exempt from this; as King David wrote, "There is none who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:3). Unfortunately, for most of the world, they continue in this pattern and become quite masterful at it. They learn more subtle ways to do damage to others. They are always looking out for themselves, and putting down anyone who gets in their way.
As followers of Christ, we have a far different mandate upon our lives. We are not looking out for ourselves, mastering evil practices. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12 that our lives are to be characterized by the opposite traits compared to those of the world: "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord" (v.9-11). While those characterized by the world seek to lift themselves up, we Christians seek to bring ourselves lower so that we can lift up those around us. We fervently work on projects that may not really excite us, because we are working as to serve the Lord. The world gripes and complains about doing these kinds of jobs because it is not what they want to do. This is a huge contrast, and one that anyone can see if we are really living it out.
I am constantly grateful for my parents who taught these principles to me both in word and in deed, though I may not have perfectly imitated them when I was a wee young'n. They disciplined me in order to teach me this "more excellent way" called love (as Paul puts it in I Corinthians 13), which is far greater than pride. I pray that I will be able, by the grace of God, to teach this to my children someday, and that this attitude of love and selflessness would characterize my life even now. This is my prayer for all of you as well. May our lives reflect the love displayed on the cross of Christ, that we might spread His light in a dark world.
A simple servant of the Master.