I’ve always been fascinated by predators. I mean, maybe it’s the caucacity (white people audacity) in me, but I feel like they all want to be my friend. Whether it’s a big cat at the zoo or a shark in the ocean, I’m fascinated and drawn to predators. And wolves are the same way. I’ll see a video of a person owning a wolf dog or even domesticating a wolf and all of a sudden I’m that person. I envision myself in the great north woods running with my trusty companion by my side not even aware that he has signaled his pack and they are all about to take down my idiot self. But there’s something alluring and majestic about nature’s predators. They’re smooth, slick, enchanting and…deadly.
I feel like it’s no accident that some of the most understandable images in the Bible stem from nature. We have faith like a mustard seed, justice rolling like a river and followers of the way described as sheep. Now let’s be honest…sheep aren’t the most elegant. They are kind of dumb and stinky. But the reason why sheep were such an important image for an agrarian society into which the Bible spoke was because of how communal and providing they were. Their identity is wrapped up in their togetherness and their ability to provide for/care for each other. Even the way in which they gave their warmth for the sake of their caretakers is an image of a Christ-like value. But I’ve always struggled with the imagery that Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount when he says to, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
I’ve always thought it would be obvious. There would be people who pretended to be pastors and they would get up and start talking about Satan or something demonic (this is what happens when your formative years happen during the satanic panic). But lately I’ve come to see the wolves are even more dangerous than I thought. They show up in skinny jeans with lattes and tattoos. Their facade has signs of welcome and warmth with hip music and smoke machines. But their words; their fruit as Jesus pointed out shows us everything we need to know about them. They lace their sermons with ideas of nationalism, racism, misogyny and homophobia. They make safe spaces for abusers and unsafe spaces for LGBTQ. All in the name of being progressive and “loving”, they rip apart the flock and soil the name of Jesus.
I came across something recently that describes this so well when it comes to sheep and these wolves from actual predator encounters, “Something entirely different (and unnatural) happens when predators pursue domestic sheep. Not only do sheep lack natural defenses but their instincts often do not serve them well either. Instead of fleeing, as wild prey would do, sheep tend to run in circles. This chaos can trigger a prey response in predators that can result in multiple kills. In the Northern Rockies this behavior has been recorded with mountain lions, bears, coyotes, wolves, and domestic dogs. However, many of the incidents where multiple sheep have been killed have been the result of panicked sheep stampeding themselves.” Many are killed from the panicked sheep stampeding themselves.
I think about the state of the church today. There is so much division and hurt. We’re running around in circles not even sure what the voice of The Good Shepherd sounds like anymore because those wolves who claim to represent him have been peddling hatred, racism, discord and nationalism in the name of love. They sit back and collect checks from the sheep while we all run around in circles picking off each other for the faults we see these wolves have pointed out. Perhaps we should listen to the Savior in the same passage once again, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12 So if the wolves are challenging us to not want these things for any other sheep (regardless of nationality, race, gender or sexuality), then maybe we finally see their fruit and can unmask them for the predators they really are.