Homo Homini Lupus.
~ Plautus (translation: “man [sic] is a wolf to man”)
But I send you out as sheep among wolves.
~ Jesus, Mt 10.36
The other night I was walking down one of the streets by my house and a group of crack dealers asked me if I was looking for anything. I said, no. One of the dealers wasn’t convinced so he followed me for a block or so holding a few crack rocks out in his hand where I could see them. He really thought I was an addict.
I have been struck lately by the fact that Jesus sends his disciples out to the places where the “wolves” are. Jesus does not send his disciples away to form their own safe little community nestled away somewhere isolated from the rest of the world, nor does he send his disciples back to the lives that they once knew — he does not send the tax collectors back to being “better” tax collectors, he does not send the fishermen back to practicing a “more moral” form of fishing. Instead, Jesus sends his disciples out as “sheep among wolves.” They are sent, in the words of Maurice Sendak, to the places “where the wild things are.”
If such a call is still applicable to Christians today it would carry two implications: (1) we are to be sent out of the Christian bubble; and (2) we are to be sent out of the comfortable lifestyle to which we are accustomed.
So how does all this relate to the episode I narrated at the start of this post. Perhaps not in the way in which we first imagine. You see, in my neighbourhood one probably thinks that it is easy to spot the “wolves.” The wolves are the dealers, the pimps, the johns, the collectors and maybe even the cops who, collectively, are all of these things at one time or another. But I’m not convinced that this is so. I think Plautus got it wrong, I think that the real wolves are the drugs, the illness, and the evil powers and principalities that maintain a stranglehold over my neighbourhood. The man who followed me offering me crack held a wolf in his hand, and that wolf would have devoured me if I had stopped to smoke it.
We are sent out as sheep among wolves in order to find the lost sheep and ensure that they are not devoured. And the lost sheep are not only the prostitutes and addicts, the lost sheep are also the pushers and the gang-bangers. Our battle is not with flesh and blood, for all those who are flesh and blood have been bought by the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus.
All I ask is that a few more Christians would consider taking Jesus seriously and coming to journey with all the sheep who live (and die) in the presence of these wolves. After all, these wolves are strong and they’re vicious — and they will only be defeated when the Church, as a corporate body, is roused to action. Because I’m tired of hearing Christians say, “sure that’s one way of following Jesus… it’s just not my way.” Well, great. I’m glad your way is that much more comfortable, but know that my friends are dying because this way is not your way. Know that these scattered sheep are the ones who are paying the price for your comfortable living.