One of my favorite films is To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart (playing Harry Morgan) and Lauren Bacall (Marie). Bogie is a fishing boat captain on a small Caribbean island, Bacall is an American stuck there with no way back to the States unless Bogie will take her. He’s disinclined.
The supporting cast is led by Walter Brennan (Eddie) who plays a rummy deck hand that Bogie allows to work for him. Brennan has one question he asks everyone he meets for the first time:
Eddie: Was you ever bit by a dead bee?
Marie: Were you?
Eddie: You’re all right, lady … . You know, you gotta be careful of dead bees if you’re going around barefooted. ‘Cause if you step on ’em they can sting you just as bad as if they was alive. Especially if they was kind of mad when they got killed. I bet I’ve been bit a hundred times that way.
Marie: You have? Why don’t you bite them back?
Eddie: That’s what Harry always says. ‘Cause I ain’t got no stinger.
Toward the end of the movie, Bogart has a change of heart about helping Bacall out the jam she’s in and, in a humorous twist, Brennan finds himself on the receiving end of the bee interrogation:
Slim: Was you ever bit by a dead bee?
Eddie: Was you?
Slim: Yeah. You know, you gotta be careful of dead bees. They can sting ya just as bad as live ones, especially if they was kinda mad when they got killed.
Eddie: I feel like I was talkin’ to myself.
Slim: I bet I’ve been bit a hundred times that way.
Eddie: Why don’t ya bite ’em back?
Slim: I would, only I haven’t got a stinger.
Eddie: Oh, I remember you. You’re all right. She can come, Harry. It’s OK with me. Now I’ll have the two of you to take care of, won’t I?
“Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”
As a kid first watching this movie I knew exactly what he meant, which puts me in good company apparently. Some others in the movie don’t, and they treat Brennan as a crazy old drunk. They have no idea what he’s talking about and they don’t bother to try to find out either.
I wonder if Christians can be accused of the same.
When we come across someone different from us do we treat them with disdain or, even worse, ignore them? Do we not even bother to try to figure out what they’re talking about?
Let me make this plainer: Do I not even bother with them?
I think I do, at least sometimes.
Yet I have the Spirit of Christ in me. This is the Spirit who reconciles, who comforts and counsels and advocates. Am I quenching the Spirit by refusing to give some people the time of day, let alone take time to help them?
Yes. Yes, I think I am.
I’d like to tell you I have an answer for this. I don’t.
I have regrets. I regret the way I’ve treated people and the way I’ve treated God. And I pray that God will lead me in repentance of my ways and renewal in relationship with the people he puts in my life each day.
I also have encouragement. As I said, Christ has given me his Spirit, sent from our loving Father. God wants to be with me even when I’m not treating others well. His Spirit in me – the Spirit that he has promised will never leave me – conforms me to the likeness of his Son.
And if there’s anyone who knew how to take time for the people around him each day, it’s Jesus.
When I was nine years old a live bee stung me on my tongue. There’s a story in there for another day. Suffice to say, though, that the live bee didn’t stay alive for long.