Sent Out As Wolf Food
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus commissioned his disciples by sending them out as sheep among wolves. Those of us who have grown up in the church have heard this many times, so the phrase may not impact us the way it would have impacted the disciples when they first heard it.
I have had little exposure to sheep, but my few encounters have given me the idea that sheep are not particularly aggressive. I also am under the impression that they are not very capable in the self defense department. The disciples would have understood this better than an American suburbanite; they would have understood that Jesus was informing them that they were being sent out as wolf food.
This is a curious motivational strategy, one not often used today. We prefer to send people out with thoughts of victory and success rather than thoughts of defeat and perhaps death. Can you envision this as the next great church growth program? “Come and learn to be wolf food!”
Defenseless But Not Undefended
Was Jesus sending them out to certain defeat? 2,000 years of Church history prove otherwise. The same disciples that Jesus first sent out began the spiritual revolution that turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).
If defeat was not what he had in mind, what then is Jesus saying? I think that Jesus is letting his disciples (of all times and all places) know that we are to go out with the understanding that we are defenseless on our own. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 that our battle is not a normal human battle. It is a spiritual one, one that we cannot fight with normal human wisdom and power. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has promised to be with us the whole way. We are not left unprotected. I need only to follow the Shepherd, Jesus will take charge of the results.
Another aspect of being sheep among wolves is that we are to be gentle. Sheep will not deal harshly with wolves. Jesus also tells his disciples to be as innocent as doves, another not-so-fearsome animal. Along this line, Peter tells is in 1 Peter 3:15 that we are to give an answer to those who question us, but do it with gentleness and respect.
Implications For Today
The point I take from this is that Jesus sent the disciples out with the knowledge that the they were not responsible for the success of the venture. Sheep cannot intimidate wolves into changing their behavior. Sheep by themselves will have no impact on the wolves. In the same way, we are not called to harangue, argue or bribe anyone into the Kingdom of Heaven. We are to give testimony to the truth of the Gospel with both our speech and our actions.
Can we, as the church, learn to be OK with being sheep and let the wolves be wolves? Can we give up the apparent need to label everything and everyone with whom we don’t agree? Can we not feel pressured to mount a crusade against every company that implements policies which we find offensive? Can we learn to display God’s love for those who are not yet in relationship with him?
I know that even if we lived out Jesus’ teaching perfectly, there would still be people offended by us. But then, the offense would be the gospel itself, not the way we demonstrate it by our words and actions.
Can we make a run at living in such a way as to invite people into relationship with Jesus? What do you think?