Love Your Enemies
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)
A checkered puffer fish. This well-camouflaged fish is often spotted in nearshore areas around South Florida. It seems to favor mangrove forests where seafloors mottled by algae and shadows provide the perfect background for them to hide. A careful observer can see them resting on the seafloor near the roots of the red mangrove trees. Puffer fish in general have gained notoriety due to the fact that they have poisonous internal organs easily capable of killing anything that consumes them. According to National Geographic, their toxin is up to 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide and a single puffer carries enough to kill up to 30 adult humans! There is no known antidote. What a blessing then, that God gave the puffer fish numerous deterrents to protect it from predators. Puffer fish earned their name from the fact that they have the ability to "puff up" by gulping water, making them very difficult to consume or swallow. It is kind of like trying to snack on a beach ball. Their body has numerous design features that allow it to accomplish this amazing feat. Puffers have elastic skin, a pleated stomach and a flexible rib cage to allow for expansion as well as a "trap door" that closes over its throat to prevent water from escaping from its body. As such, pufferfish can expand up to four times their normal size in a matter of seconds. However, despite their natural ability to puff up, research indicates that this is a highly stressful practice for the puffer fish. In addition, if a puffer fish inflates near the surface or out of the water, it may be ingesting air which is harmful to the animal. When observing the animal it can be tempting to cause a puffer fish to expand but doing so may ultimately threaten its life. Finally, since when puffers inflate they protect both themselves and their predators from death, they also offer us a wonderful example of the biblical mandate to love our enemies. If a fish can do it, so can we, with God's help!