I read the other day of an old pre-perestroika Russian story of an exhibition at a world's fair that was given the name, "World Peace." It featured a cage in which a lamb and a wolf were living together peacefully. This was to serve as a living witness to the prophet Isaiah's vision where the wolf and the lamb are able to live together in the earth made new. One day while viewing the exhibition with great curiosity, a man who found this to be extremely intriguing asked the curator of the exhibit, "How in the world do you do this?" To which the curator replied, "Oh, it's really very simple: we replace the lamb every morning."
Now if you're like me, I'm quite confident you find this story to be extremely repulsive. It kind of makes you wonder why anyone would allow something as innocent and defenseless as a lamb to be exposed to such harsh cruelty. But wait a minute. When was the last time you read Jesus' words concerning the fate of those who had made the commitment to follow him?
Jesus said, 16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.
Now if this doesn't seem like a turn off, I don't know what does. How could anyone hear this and still desire to remain faithful to the call? It doesn't sound very much like the religious appeals that are made by many of the mega church pastors that we see on television each week. To hear them tell it, accepting the invitation to become a disciple of Jesus is the sure-fire way of having every problem in your life solved, literally over night. But the call to discipleship has never been an invitation to having all of our needs met. Instead, the call that Jesus extends to us is one that demands that we be willing not to receive all, but instead a willingness to relinquish all.
And herein is where I believe much of the conflict lies. You see, Jesus never called his followers to become successful; as is the idea for many believers today, especially in much of the western world. Instead, Jesus' call is one of determined faithfulness, even if that faithfulness causes you to lose your own life (Revelation 2:10). And the call to faithfulness is one that is expected not just when we are placed in a protective environment where we are shielded from the evil forces of this age, but rather, God expects our faithfulness to be lived out in our lives even when we are surrounded by wolves. And trust me when I say, we are! But the counsel that Jesus gives is not for us to be fearful of them, but to be on the lookout for them and to be cognizant of the potential damage that they can and will cause to those who have made the decision to "dance with wolves."
C. A. Tapp