March 18, 2007

Roland has started a discussion. I went to give .02 and ended up spending a buck fifty… Here it is…

Matthew 10 discusses the sending of the 12. Yeshua speaks freely about the perils and challenges that are before them. He talks of death, persecution and pain. He talks of sacrifice and reward. He tells them they are being sent as “sheep among wolves” and finally he admonishes them to be as “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.”

First off. What’s a wolf? Finding a common denominator is vital for the discussion to continue. Are wolves believers who hurt other believers? Can a sheep become a wolf? Or is a wolf a completely different animal? At it’s core. Can a wolf become a sheep or can a sheep ever lose it’s sheepish-ness. (Not wanting a discussion, just having fun with the metaphor)

I believe a wolf to be exactly what a wolf is, a predatory animal preying continuously upon weaker beings such as bunnies and lambs, innocent chickens and poor little kitties. A wolf doesn’t pretend to want the destruction of this other living being for the sole purpose of sustaining it’s own existence, that is in fact, the essence of it’s nature. Wolves wander. They have no loyalties other than to their own kind and that can change moment by moment depending on the mood of the pack. Packs are small and often the weaker are left to fend for themselves and consequently die alone. Wolves are cunning and aloof. They camoflauge themselves well as they wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. They are patient. They can wait for insane lengths of time before striking. Above all, as any cattle rancher in the Yellowstone region recognizes, wolves cannot be trusted around anything they consider prey.

Sheep? Well, sheep aren’t exactly the beautiful, soft and fluffy depictions we see on Looney Tunes. They smell. They are stupid. They don’t know enough to stay out of the river in flood season, they run from terrifying things like a pitchfork falling over in the barn and hitting the water trough which made the most CHILLING clang and certainly heralded their impending doom. They are herd animals and sometimes they kick each other in the head. Sometimes they roll onto their backs and get stuck. Sometimes they wander off by themselves and get in so much trouble it would be easier to make mutton stew than deal with them. Sheep are animals neither predatory nor cunning. They are undeniably petty and ridiculous. They are impatient and have no concept of self-preservation. It would be an extremely hard case to prove they are menacing in any capacity. They live in a constant state of need. They must have a shepherd to exist, let alone flourish. Sheep. That’s what we are called. So not flattering.

So, now we have our definitions clear. Yeshua saw us for who we are in His perspective, sheep. He saw those who opposed us as wolves. In the light of the moral relativism of our age it’s difficult to understand that there were no grey issues. No bunnies on the sidelines. No innocent bystanders. Yeshua states very clearly in Matthew 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” Where is the room for those who want to sit on the fence and watch? Apparently G-d doesn’t recognize that as a viable option. If you haven’t actively chosen to follow Him, then you have passively chosen to reject Him. Both actions have weight and consequence. If any screeches it’s not fair? It’s time to hit puberty and recognize that life isn’t about fair. G-d isn’t about fair. He is about what is just and honorable and righteous.

So, back to Roland’s question… If someone (even a wolf) wants to mingle with the congregation, and the shepherds there have taught their flock well, why are you so afraid? Has God given us a spirit of fear?

Has G-d given us a spirit of fear? Romans 10:10-16 tells us very clearly the spirit we are given is that of sonship and adoption. This implies we have all the rights and responsibilities of Family as well as all the protection the King of the Universe has to offer.

We ought not to be afraid. But we are. Often. We should not be critical and dismissive. But we are. Often. We should not be inviting wolves in to dine with us and offer them access to those weaker than ourselves who would become easy prey for them. But we do. All the time. Even Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 11:18-21 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

It’s apparent that Paul isn’t impressed by the Corinthians and their “tolerant” atmosphere. Here are people who bear the marks of any wolf in any congregation since the beginning and even then it was a bad idea to put up with this behavior. So, why do we think we are stronger and better equipped to deal with this than they were?

I believe those who tolerate and accommodate the behavior of wolves among sheep are the ones who are afraid. They are afraid of confrontation, of challenging behavior or risking personal standing among people they like and from whom they desire acceptance and affirmation. I believe it is a wise shepherd who recognizes the sheep in the midst and makes every effort to keep that wolf from the weak by surrounding him with the strong. I see it rarely happens because there are far too many weak, fat, clueless sheep and far too few wise shepherds.

The congregation is open to all who would come in seeking to find salvation. Any who has not accepted Yeshua is a wolf, all who have are sheep. If a person rejects Messiah yet still wants to remain in the assembly they are welcome. If that same person begins to behave in a predatory manner toward the sheep they are no longer welcome. Why? A shepherd’s job is to tend sheep and protect them from wolves. The shepherd’s task has never been to tend wolves and abandon sheep. The Great Shepherd alone can speak to the heart of a wolf and transform him.

We spend too much time wondering if we love everyone enough to make them like us and create an environment where we all “feel” good. We are in desperate need of soberly evaluating ourselves and allowing ourselves be evaluated by others according to the light of Scripture as we struggle toward the goal of dying to ourselves and our “rights” and living for the life Yeshua offers. We give up our need for personal identity so we might take up the cause and life Christ offers. And this isn’t easy. And the enemy of our souls will send people (with or without their express consent) to walk among us that we could be distracted, abused, defiled and potentially horrifically damaged. He, this enemy, is eager for the destruction of those who call on the Name of the Lord.

In summation, Ephesians 6:12 speaks the most clearly toward this situation. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places

We don’t wrestle with wolves. But we pray for them. We don’t put them in the middle of the sheep fold. But we offer them the opportunity to become sheep. We don’t reject them with coldness and with arrogance, for we were all at one time wolves. But we don’t subject or offer the lambs to them. We are to be wise. We are to be gentle. We are to trust in a G-d who watches over us and sees the differences between us. And we do the job He has given us in the capacity in which we are able. Not out of fear but reverence. Because we love our Father who has adopted us from the kingdom of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of light.