Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Sheep In Lion Country, Part 1

Part 1: Understand how lions behave.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

The past 24 hours have been hard. A friend of mine, the leader of the church I belong to, is in hospital with a build-up of fluid in his brain. The severe headaches prevented him from being involved in Visitors’ Week. The condition has apparently come out of nowhere, and, for now, is baffling the doctors. Another friend, who has wrestled with depression for a long time, tried to commit suicide yesterday. Thankfully, they failed. Last night made for a story I may tell one day in the distant future, but not for now. But, the events of the past 24 hours have brought into sharper focus some thoughts I’ve been reflecting on over several days, about how the enemy targets Christians…

Lions hunt in particular ways, and seek out particular targets. Watch lions go for wildebeests, or even elephants when desperate enough, and you’ll notice a pattern. First, they get as close to the herd as they can without being detected, using the cover of long grass, or darkness, and with the wind carrying their scent away from the prey. Then, at close quarters, they break cover. At this point, their tactic is surprise, resulting in a reaction of fear; and, in the ensuing panic, they target any animal that gets isolated from the others – often because it is young or already injured.

As a Christian, isolation from other Christians – existing beyond, or even on the fringes of, a community of faith – is dangerous. And it is pertinent to observe that, as with herd animals, confusion tends to cause us to run from the group rather than to it.

But lions don’t only target the obviously weak and vulnerable. Sometimes lions will target the leader of the herd. The lions in Israel – now long since killed off – would have not only targeted sheep, but shepherds: kill the shepherd, and you get to kill the sheep easier. Before he was king, before he was general, before he slew Goliath, David killed the lion and the bear.

Church leaders are targets. Not because they are More Important than other Christians, but because they are a more strategic prey. Take out a church leader, and you can pick off their flock. People get sick; but, the timing of my friend’s brain condition suggests something more sinister than coincidence to me.

And though it is a very different circumstance, all I’d want to contribute to the current blogosphere debate over the latest high-profile American church leader to fall from grace is that perhaps they is more to hypocrisy at play: the battlefield you fight on is a likely battlefield to fall on. No soldier serving in Iraq is likely to be blown up in Afghanistan. When you make a particular stand, it shouldn’t surprise us that the world, the flesh and the devil might concentrate their efforts against us there. Like me, my friend has taken a stand against sickness…

So, if you’re reading this and you know anyone who is on the edge of community and moving outwards, pray for them. And if you’re part of a church community, pray for your leaders, too.

And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honour.
In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honour. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.

(1 Peter 5:1-11, New Living Translation)

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:06 pm

    Thanks Andrew for a timely post.
    Cheers, Ben