Are They Sheep or Wolves?
It’s easy to distinguish in our minds between wolves and sheep: Wolves are the ones attacking and eating sheep, sheep are the ones eating grass and listening to the shepherd’s voice. It becomes complicated though when we have to reckon with the reality of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Having been whacked a time or two or twelve by the shepherd’s rod, a wolf covers himself for a time in behaviors and actions designed to help him blend in with the sheep so that he can devour them on the sly. Thankfully, shepherds know to watch out for these creatures and sometimes even the sheep can figure it out before it’s too late. But there is one more possibility to keep in mind.
Maybe this has happened to you or to another sheep you know. After a peaceful day of green pastures and still waters, you are settling down to rest as night falls. Suddenly, the eerie glow of a full moon bursts through the dark clouds and the calm of the night is shattered by the bizarre and creepy half-baa half howl of the dreaded were-sheep! Someone you’ve always known to be a faithful Christian transforms into a different animal by engaging in strikingly wolfish behavior, biting and devouring the flock in a way that leaves a bloody mess all over the sheepfold.
Your initial reaction might be to pull out your gun and apply for an early season wolf tag, but both life and the Word of God teach us that we need to have more categories than “harmless sheep” or “dangerous wolf.” While all sin must be dealt with, not all sin is committed by wolves. Real Christians really sin, sometimes in really big ways. So how can you know whether you are dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing that needs to be shot or a sheep in wolf’s clothing that needs to be shepherded?
Tell Tale Signs of a Wolf
What happens when the moon passes, and the full light of day shines down on this confused beast? Both the internal conviction of the Holy Spirit and godly rebuke from others will illuminate the true nature of the animal that you are dealing with. An unmasked wolf runs away from rebuke, or, if he tries to brazen it out, offers the kind of “repentance” that leaves even more bite marks. A sinning sheep steps into the gospel sunlight, sometimes even before a rebuke comes, to quickly and fully repent of the sins he has committed while under the maddening moon.
Here’s another way to think about it: a wolf runs away when the shepherd comes; a sheep runs toward the shepherd. Wolves hate correction; sheep are grateful for the faithful wounds of a friend. It takes courage to approach such a potentially vicious creature without knowing what sort of animal he really is, but we serve a great Shepherd who knowingly sends us out like sheep among wolves. He warns us to beware, but He has shown us through His own life that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Our Good Shepherd would rather die than lose one of His sheep, even when those sheep are snarling, snapping, and straying. You need to be aware that were-sheep are real, not so that you can shoot them along with the wolves, but so that you can echo the Shepherd’s voice and call them back into His healing hands.