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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A "Sheep," on "Wolves"

What do I mean when I speak of "sheep" and "wolves" or use the expression, "wolves in sheep's clothing"?

I don't mean "wolf" in the sense of a Don Juan or Casanova type person. There may be some "wolves in sheep's clothing" that fit that description, but the Bible uses the imagery of sheep and wolves in a more general sense.

The Sheep Label

In the modern sense, a "sheep" is a person who follows blindly. This isn't exactly accurate. Sheep blindly follow instinct, and part of that is to stay with the group and run when something doesn't seem right. Humans are more intelligent, so nothing they do is completely blind or thoughtless.

"Sheep," used in the symbolic sense in the Bible, are followers of God, but this isn't a thoughtless decision, either. Christians consciously choose to obey God and let Him make the major decisions in their lives. Like sheep, Christians trust the Shepherd, but unlike sheep, humans have a choice to disobey.

In contrast to the world, God isn't calling us stupid (lacking in intelligence) by comparing us to sheep. Agreeing to follow someone who knows the future and is capable of doing anything to ensure your safety seems, well, pretty smart. No, the Bible doesn't call people stupid, but it does call some people fools. Foolishness is not a lack of intelligence. Foolishness, in the sense the Bible uses, is someone who refuses to respond to sound advice and discipline. It's a conscious decision, and fools can help being fools. Fools don't act like sheep because they refuse to follow the Shepherd; instead, they act like lone wolves.

The Wolf Label

It's pretty clear what wolves mean to sheep. Wolves are vicious, attacking some unsuspecting prey animal in the night and shredding it to pieces with their teeth. Unlike human wolves, however, they are just doing this to eat.

The Bible refers to certain people as wolves because they aggressively destroy people who obey God. Their wolf-ish behavior, believe it or not, is motivated by either a fear of giving up their hostile ways, or a hatred of God and goodness. Maybe they hurt others so their peers will approve of their toughness. Maybe someone claiming to be a Christian was mean to them, so they think God is mean and they want to protect themselves from this false perception of God. Whatever their reasoning, these wolves have set themselves up to be the enemies of Christians, just as much as wolves are the natural enemies of sheep.

Wolves in the wild would have a great advantage if they could disguise themselves and hide among the sheep, but that can't happen. People can pretend to be something they are not, because other people can't see inside their hearts and read their motives.

Recognizing a Wolf

There are still ways to sniff out the wolves. Occasionally, the people around us let slip what they are really thinking. If you want to be a Savvy Sheep, you have to watch for these glimpses and learn to spot a wolf. If someone acts like a wolf once, he or she may just be a sheep that made a mistake. If this person makes a pattern of it, however, watch out! Even if it's your best friend, a wolf is a wolf. If you don't run away, you'll end up sharing space with lettuce, tomato, and two slices of bread.

Spotting the Fangs Beneath the Wool

Malicious Gossiping
malicious gossiping is a clear sign that this person doesn't respect the feelings of the person he or she is talking about. A gossip doesn't care if he or she brings the blood, in other words. If this person is talking about someone else this way, what makes you think you aren't getting the same treatment when you aren't around?

"Jesus said, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14: 6, emphasis mine). Jesus' very nature is truthful. If this person has rejected truth and gone a different way, he or she has rejected the example of the Shepherd. This person isn't obeying, and isn't following. What is this person?

Rejection of Advice
"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice" (Proverbs 12: 15). We've already gone over the Biblical definition of a fool. If this person can't even listen to you, a friend, how can he follow God and listen to Him? *I will qualify this by saying that anyone can (and should) reject advice if it will cause chaos, contradicts Scripture, or could get someone hurt.*

"We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:19-21). The Bible promises us that people who hurt us will be punished for what they did. Since God has forgiven us for many things, why can't we forgive those who hurt us, too? A sheep lets God be angry for him, but don't have anything on his conscience concerning this other person. A wolf wages war on his own.

I could make the list longer, but this post is already huge. Do you want me to discuss any of this further? Just leave me a comment and I'll do my best to answer your questions.