~ Wati Longchar
Lambs and Wolves in the Bible
The lamb is usually attributed as a meek and harmless animal; a sign synonymous with ones who are vulnerable, marginalized, and exploited. The wolf is characterized as an aggressive and harmful animal; a sign of the collective institutionalized system that protects the powerful. We are called to witness the message of love among wolves.
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Luke 10:1-12
A World of Wolves
Luke, in his Gospel, wrote that people who serve Christ are like the lambs among the wolves. Imagine the Animal World TV channel, where we can witness how the wolves attack the lambs, deer, and buffaloes. The wolves are pack animals; they are always together and always attack their prey together. They bark to frighten the animals and most of the time, they attack their prey from behind with their sharp teeth. The wolves often try to separate the animals because they cannot kill when the other animals are together. After separating a target animal from the group, they will chase it together from different directions until the animal is tired and finally cornered in such a way that the animal will not be able to run away. After killing the animal, they will fight between each other to snatch the bigger share of the meat and they quickly forget their collective effort; everybody becomes selfish and does not want to share with others. This is the depiction of our society today – we cheat, malign, chase, and kill each other for the sake of fame, power, and money. We live in a world where the money is more important than human values and the environment that sustains us; we exploit and do everything we can to snatch power, position, and money. The wolves represent the collective and institutionalized form of evil forces such as market capitalism, patriarchy, racism, tribalism, casteism, ableism, and classism. Therefore, Jesus said to his disciples, you are called to serve like a lamb among the wolves. Jesus prohibited his disciples from three things:
(a) Do not take your purse. Money is important but the love of money is dangerous. Money makes people blind, dependent, lazy, and it causes fights among people. Importantly, money engenders dishonesty, especially against the defenseless people. We have many tragic stories of friends, siblings, family members, colleagues, and neighbours being killed for the sake of money and fame, while some organizations and even churches accuse each other in court because of money disputes. All these events are happening today because we put money above everything. Judas Iscariot followed Jesus thinking that he would make more money and when he came to realize that he would not gain much by following Jesus, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:15), an equivalent of about US $ 600/- or Indian Rs. 43,200/-. Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property but kept back part of the money for himself. Peter said to him, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? You have not lied just to human beings but also God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell and died, and about three hours later his wife also fell down and died (Acts. 5:1-11). Life is not only about money. Do not serve Jesus seeking money; the wolves will use the money to attack us.
(b) Do not take your bag or package. Wealth comes from God and it is important for the sustenance of life. Possession of wealth influences the attitude of the rich towards poor people. The prosperous see the poor as deprived, illiterate, and objects of charity. We often see them as uneducated and useless who cannot contribute anything good for society. One should not assume that he/she is the only educated, while others are not. Such an attitude separates us from the real context of the people. We must trust people’s resources and on people’s potentiality and their gifts. Do not depend on and attempt to transform people merely with the resources received from different agencies/churches/organizations. Mobilizing people’s resources is more important because people alone can bring change and transformation. People’s initiative and making them responsible and accountable for their own transformation is what we need today.
(c) Do not take your sandal. The sandal is a symbol of high social status and fame; a representation of self-pride and was reserved only for Kings and soldiers. Slaves were not allowed to come to their masters with sandals. To take off one’s sandals signifies humbleness and humility. Without humility, one cannot serve Jesus Christ. We cannot serve Jesus maintaining our social status; often we consider our caste, tribe, and family background as important necessities in serving the Lord and sometimes we take great pride in our degrees and achievements. Do not have confidence in our high theological degrees – they are useless if you do not have the commitment and willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. Jesus said, “Go! Stay with them, eat and drink what they give you.” It is wrong to maintain a stranger’s or visitors’ attitude. What is necessary is having trust in people, being by their side, and becoming part of their life – to facilitate the mobilization of their resources and potentiality, depending on their resources is what is needed today, for the transformation of our society.
Go Two by Two
Another very interesting activity we notice in this passage is that Jesus sent his disciples in pairs, not individually. Evil forces work collectively like wolves. To fight against collective evil forces, we need to work together and stand united. To fight against the evil forces, one denomination alone or one religion alone cannot fight against the institutionalized form of injustice like market capitalism, caste, patriarchy, ableism, and other forms of institutionalized injustice. Churches need to work together with other denominations and extend mutual relationships to other religions if we are to achieve the fullness of life that can be celebrated by all.
India/Asia is a land of great diversity. Diversity is God’s plan and the pivotal structure of creation. The whole creation of God reflects the image of God, and so it needs to be a requisite for protection and celebration. Diversity is not a problem, but our world is impeded by people unwilling to accept diversity; our churches are hindered because of unwillingness to accept diversity. People who are not willing to accept diversity are the threat to peaceful co-existence. Respect, acceptance, and love are the core teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will be able to bear testimony of our Lord Jesus’ prayer, “Called to be One” only when we respect and uphold diversity – be it a small or a big community. If we want to win the race collectively, we need to run together in solidarity holding hands in unity, especially with the weaker ones so that all members experience equality, justice, and love in the body of our Lord. Let us go two by two, but not one by one.
Transforming Today’s World
In today’s world, serving Christ seems like having only two options:
Keep quiet option: To survive in ministry, the best option for some people is maintaining silence – to just bow down even though you know it is wrong. Many people silently follow the unjust system, even though knowing what is going on is not right because we are afraid of being dismissed from the church or institution. Often people choose to maintain silence for the sake of survival and choose to live in the comfort zone.
Speak the truth option: This is a very risky matter. When we try to shake the existing system for the sake of justice and marginalized people, we will be criticized and threatened. Jesus said, “take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus has already led the way and taken his cross for us; therefore, it is our turn to take up our cross – self-sacrifice, responsibilities, hardships, and sufferings for the sake and in the name of Christ. Unfortunately, there are only a few takers willing for this leadership approach because it is a risky job. When God called Jeremiah, God said, I have appointed you over nations and kingdom to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. Jer.1:10. The same command is given to us today.
Which course of leadership approach shall we take? If we want the world to be transformed, we need to take the “speak the truth” leadership role. Our Lord Jesus Christ is our model of leadership! We are called to identify the root cause of evil and confront it with courage. Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy said, “fight the good fight of the faith.”(I Tim. 6:11-16) Fight for justice, peace, and harmony in the church and society. Serving Christ in today’s world involves speaking the truth and standing united with victims of the unjust system.
1Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you walk the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour, is with you. Isaiah 43:1-3
Let us “Go and participate in the world without fear to establish the kingdom of God on earth.” God has called us. God is with us and it is our time to proclaim God’s Kingdom.