You may find yourself reading the title Lions in a World of Sheep and feel a sense of excitability. You may be on the edge of your seat thinking, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been saying and thinking!” Perhaps hairs immediately stand up on your arms while reading that statement and you may be thinking, “There are grave implications for making that statement.”
To be blunt, this article is not here to affirm your bias that being a lion in a world of sheep is what God is calling you to as a follower of Christ in today’s society. Out of an abundance of transparency, if you’re reading that with the first reaction on your heart, I’d like to urge you to prayerfully take a step back. If you resonate with the title, I ask you to prayerfully seek out a vast amount of humility to process what you read next.
Not of This World
Maybe you haven’t even come across it, yet. If you haven’t seen it, there is this idea making waves throughout the “outcasts” of our culture. This idea expresses in various ways, “We need more lions in a world of sheep!” with boldness and tenacity. I typically see it from those that do their best to “march to the beat of their own drum” or live their lives “counter-culturally.”
When I say outcasts, I mean the people going against the grain of the majority of society. I’d say I align with many of the choices made in this community in our culture. I homeschool my children, I seek alternative healthcare options, I make the majority of our food from scratch. Yet, I can’t help but tilt my head a bit each time I witness a professing Christian publicly aligning with this idea that appears to me to be counter-intuitive to what the Word of God states. If you have a hard time imagining that possibility, I’d like to challenge you to search Scripture and find what passages support that claim you’re clinging to.
Sought and Rescued
For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.Ezekiel 34:11-12
Jesus is our good Shepherd, He came to live and breathe in flesh and become the ultimate sacrifice for us. If we didn’t need rescuing, what was the point of His sufferings? The questions continue. If we, as believers, are to be lions, do we really need Jesus? If we don’t, then His life and death were in vain. How can a perfect God mistake our need, unless it wasn’t a mistake at all and we are indeed sheep in need of rescuing after all?
I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. / And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.Ezekiel 34:22, 31
We are His sheep. He is our God. He declares it. He claims us. He rescues us, because we are in great need of rescuing. A lion doesn’t need rescuing or watching after, a helpless sheep needs both and more.
Christ Has Set Us Free
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. / For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.Galatians 5:1, 13-15
Without context and proper definition from the original language and consideration of what the original hearers of these passages would have understood, it’s easy to take a verse like this and cookie cutter it into our lives today. At first glance, I am riled up and think, “That is the American way, the very founding of our country! Hurrah!” However, upon studying and prayerfully seeking understanding through the Holy Spirit, an entirely different message begins to unfold.
Two words into this passage and you could be understanding completely incorrectly the intentions of Paul when he wrote this to the church of Galatia. This letter was written “to clarify and safeguard the gospel [and] to combat controversies in Galatia raging around the reception of the gospel in the lives of new believers.” (From my Thomas Nelson NKJV Study Bible – cannot find mine in print – which is what I use alongside my ESV journaling bible from the Daily Grace Co.)
Freedom from What?
You see, it’s easy to look at the word “freedom” and apply it to our lives today. Strong’s Concordance (available verse by verse via Blue Letter Bible) provides much needed clarity on what the original word “freedom” meant. The Greek word eleutheria is specifically defined for Galatians 5:1 and 13 (as well as Gal. 2:4, 1 Corin. 10:29, 1 Peter 2:16, 2 Corin. 3:17, James 1:25 and 2:12, and Romans 8:21). It means “liberty to do or to omit things having no relation to salvation…from the yoke of the Mosaic law.”
This definition is much different from the definition of freedom given for the use of the word in 2 Peter 2:19 which states, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” In this verse, freedom is defined as “fancied liberty, i. e. license, the liberty to do as one pleases.”
I pray you see the importance of not taking Scripture and sifting it through the filter that is our lives. Instead, we must seek Scripture to understand who God is, and how we are to respond in light of that truth.
Sheep Among Lions
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.Matthew 10:16
LOOK OUT, there are wolves. Be wise, be innocent. Predators like wolves are not known as innocent, nor are lions. But, a sheep is prey for wolves and lions. Does God call us to be a predator? It certainly seems not so.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.John 10:4
…but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.John 10:26-27
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.John 10:11
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,Hebrews 13:20
Countless examples are available in Scripture of followers of Christ as the Good Shepherd’s sheep. In today’s world, we compare this as being a coward. In God’s kingdom, it’s backwards. We must keep eternity in mind if we are to withstand the schemes of the enemy in the world we live in.
You Must Be Ready
“…You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect…And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or ac according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”Luke 12:40, 47-48
If we knew when Jesus were returning to establish his kingdom and make all things new, then we would be vigilant based solely on this knowledge. This avoids addressing our hearts, if you ask me. Because we do not know the time, it is essential that we constantly be ready.
In his verse by verse study, Chuck Smith breaks down Luke 12:45-48 by reinstating what I agree God to be warning us with here:
“God holds you responsible for your knowledge. Knowledge creates responsibility before God. And having the knowledge that you have, brings you into a greater responsibility before God. God holds you responsible.”
Continue reading and studying in Luke 12 and you will see further clarification of the reality we face as believers and followers of Christ.
The Greatest Commandment of All
Sisters or brothers in Christ, you are not on this earth, created by a loving Father, to be lions in a world of sheep. If you call yourself a Christian, then you are not walking in the Spirit if you come at the world barring your teeth and pushing aggressively towards social reform. Instead, we are to love, above all else. Remember how God defines love in Scripture?
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.1 Corinthians 13:4-7
What is the most important commandment Jesus himself provides believers to follow? Love, defined above, affirmed below.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:30-31
Lions in a World of Sheep
If Scripture exhorts the people living in the days of Jesus’s life to walk in love, then what right do we have to assume we should walk in any other way? Why does Jesus stop Peter from physically defending him from the Roman soldiers come to take him away in John 18? He tells Peter to put his sword away, so that the Father’s will can be done. Nowhere in Scripture have I found support for disregarding God’s commandments to love. Nowhere did Jesus’ teachings contradict this commandment.
We’re not called to rescue ourselves, we have never been able to, we never will be able to. Jesus came because of this truth, because we are not capable to rescue ourselves. Jesus came because in our wreckage, we cannot save ourselves.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:4-10
Brother, sister…you are God’s workmanship. The direct translation of this word happens to be “poem” in the English language, which indicates a handiwork, a masterpiece. God’s church is his poem.
May this bring rest and comfort to your weary soul seeking clarity in these trying times. The only thing that makes sense biblically to do is to run to the Father and trust His will for, in and through my life. I won’t know what that is unless I’m seeking Him in His Words. May we be a people that seek the Lord with our whole hearts, minds and souls.
All quotes from Scripture taken from the ESV translation.