People have swallowed some outrageous things. A 20 year old woman was using her toothbrush to clean the back area of her tongue when she triggered her gag reflex. This gagging caused her to swallow the toothbrush. Another woman was brought into a hospital for swallowing coins, a spoon, and a 9 volt battery. She reported that she occasionally gets the urge to eat something made of metal (paper clips while in hospital.). A 10-pound hairball was found in an 18 year old woman (New England Journal of Medicine, Nov 2007). She apparently had a habit of chewing on and then eating her own hair. But the best I could find is the following: a woman swallowed her lover’s false teeth while kissing. They were trying some new unspecified method. Fortunately did not require surgery.
In Matthew 23:24 Jesus accused the Pharisees of swallowing camels. Both camels and gnats were considered unclean (Lev 11:4, 20). So both would need to be strained from one’s drink. Jesus said they managed to strain out the gnat but were oblivious to the camel! Given a choice, I wouldn’t swallow a gnat or a camel, but if forced to choose between the two I’d quickly be heading out the door with a gnat trap. The Pharisees, on the other hand, seemed to have a more ambitious appetite. Even though they painstakingly avoided swallowing a tiny gnat, they did seem to enjoy swallowing a huge, gangly camels; humps, hooves, hair and all! Of course, what Jesus refers to was the Pharisees proclivity to splitting hairs and pressing details, while ignoring the greatest and most fundamental of God’s laws.
Could we ever be guilty of the same? Have our brethren ever pressed for an example, while ignoring pure and undefiled religion? Have we ever so focused on a specific that we neglect the generic? Alexander Campbell thought so. He once responded to a lady who was eager to condemn others for their lack of understanding about baptism, and suggested that she might be profited more by focusing on the two greatest of God’s laws. This is not to diminish the importance of baptism ! However, if to others we excel in camel swallowing, it is not likely they will pay much attention to our gnat straining.
Incidentally, baptism is not a matter of gnats. But neither is it identified as the greatest of God’s commands.