Sermon illustrations


Better Never than Late

Like most artists, the Scotsman George Bernard Shaw experienced a lot of rejection early in his career, before he eventually became a celebrated playwright. During this period of struggle, one of his plays was routinely turned down by a certain producer. This of course changed after Shaw experienced a measure of success. Unsurprisingly the producer changed his mind and sent off an urgent cable offering to put on the oft’ rejected play. Shaw cabled, with sarcastic wit, “Better never than late.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

A Dying Man’s Last Words

A man was dying and he called his wife to his bedside. He affectionately told her he loved her but he also had to confess something to her. “I haven’t been 100% faithful to you in our marriage. I’m so sorry.” Through tears, the wife replied, “I know. That’s why I poisoned you.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Love is an Action

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”

Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”

“Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.

J. Allan Petersen

The Officer & The Umpire

Sometime ago Dave Hagler, who works as an umpire in a recreational baseball league, was pulled over for driving too fast in the snow in Boulder, Colorado.  He tried to talk the officer out of giving him a ticket by telling him how worried he was about insurance and how he’s normally a very safe driver, and so on.  The officer said that if he didn’t like receiving the ticket, he could take the matter to court.

At the first game in the next baseball season, Dave Hagler is umpiring behind the plate, and the first batter up is—can you believe it?—the policeman.  As the officer is about to step into the batter’s box, they recognize each other.  Long pause.  The officer asks, “So how did the thing with the ticket go?”

 Hagler says, “You’d better swing at everything.”

 Sweet revenge.

John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, Zondervan, 2003, pp.58-59.

Pursuing Truth Over Revenge

I would like to share with you a true story that took place during the Revolutionary War.

During that time there was a pastor named Peter Miller, and all through his ministry in a small town in Lancaster County, he had a neighbor who took great pleasure in mocking and ridiculing Miller and his followers.

And as it happens, during the war, that neighbor fell on hard times and was both accused and convicted of treason.

And while of course, he was an unpleasant person, Miller was convinced that he was not in fact, a traitor.

And so Peter Miller decided to travel 70 miles on foot to see George Washington, who he believed could commute the sentence, and free him of the charges against him.

When Miller approached the great general, Washington told him he was sorry but there was nothing he could do to save his friend.

“My Friend?” Miller gasped, he isn’t my friend! In fact he is the greatest enemy I’ve ever had”

Washington needless to say, was surprised:

“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That in my judgment puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.”

And so, the story goes, Miller returned home just as his neighbor was being led to the scaffold

The Neighbor cried out to the crowd…

“Old Peter Miller has coming to get his revenge and watch me hang from the scaffold”

Miller said “not at all” and he handed him the paper with his pardon.

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Material from The Grace of Giving by Stephen Olford.

Kicking the Front Seat

Martin has just received his brand new driver’s license. The family troops out to the driveway and climbs in the car, where he is going to take them for a ride for the first time. Dad immediately heads for the back seat, directly behind the newly minted driver. “I’ll bet you’re back there to get a change of scenery after all those months of sitting in the front passenger seat teaching me how to drive,” says the beaming boy to his father. “Nope,” comes Dad’s reply, “I’m gonna sit here and kick the back of your seat as you drive, just like you’ve been doing to me all these years.”

Justin Sedgewick, Have You Heard the One About . . .More Than 500 Side-Splitting Jokes! Skyhorse Publishing 2017.

Revenge Doesn’t Say 

In Exclusion and Embrace, Yale professor Miroslav Volf reflects on the themes of revenge, mercy, forgiveness and grace. Volf, who grew up in war-ravaged Croatia, speaks from a place of deep concern for the sectarian divisions that often lead to conflict and violence. His insight here is significant for anyone who desires peace but fights against the fleshly desire for revenge.

Revenge doesn’t say, `An eye for an eye.” It says, “You take my eye, and I’ll blow out your brains.” It doesn’t say, “An insult sult for an insult.” It says, “You cross me once, you cross me twice, and I’ll destroy your character and your career.” It doesn’t say, “You organize an act of terror, and we’ll punish you.” It says, “You organize an act of terror, and we’ll use the overwhelming military force of a superpower to recast the political landscape of the entire region from which you came.” Revenge abandons the principle of “measure for measure” and, acting out of injured pride and untamed fear, gives itself to punitive excess. That’s why revenge is morally wrong. In its zeal to punish, it overindulgently takes from the offender more than due.

Miroslav Volf , Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Abingdon Press.



See also Illustrations on Attacks, Betrayal, Conflict, Evil, Peace, Sin, Suffering, Violence, War