In Part 1 of these thoughts I proposed that deception is a very pervasive aspect of our lives. Our role as human beings, not just Christians, is not to take it for granted or be sucked in by it, but to recognise it and stand apart from it in its various ways.
In this article I would like to examine an idea that is also pervasive in our circles: that we might need to use deceit in order to achieve a goal. Back to sheep and wolves.
Is it valid to become a sheep in wolf's clothing? If we take a look at how Jesus handled this, it is obvious that he did not become a publican or a sinner in order to have an impact on publicans and sinners. He was himself and being so he attracted some and repelled others.
Jesus himself came into the world like a sheep in the midst of wolves. He did not pretend to be anything other than who he was.
Example 1 - God's Squad
John Smith's God's Squad does not need to put on wolf's clothing. In order to minister to bikers, yes they became bikers (or already were bikers) but they do not pretend to be anything other than what they are – Christians belonging to God. They are sheep in sheep's clothing in the midst of wolves.
Example 2 – Daniel
Daniel and his three friends could easily have put on wolfs' clothing while they were in exile in Babylon. They were tested three times to see if they could take the easy option and just compromise.
The Babylonians had plundered the temple of God and carried off treasure to put in their own temple, but they also carried off some "young men, without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king's palace." (Daniel Chapter 1, verse 4).
What an amazing job description! Who wouldn't be flattered when told of those criteria. The young men were to be trained for three years, then enter the king's service.
But this almost immediately sets them up to be in debt to their captors – how could they go against this astounding resume? Wouldn't they want to comply with any request, just to live up to this reputation? Sometimes we don't realize how easily we can get sucked in to someone else's standards and end up compromising our own.
Food (Daniel Chapter 1)
The first issue was with something quite innocuous – food. With God's guidance, Daniel chose to not eat the rich food and wine of the Babylonians, but to have vegetables and water. At the end of ten days he and his friends were fitter and healthier than the Babylonian young men who were also being trained up.
The challenge of food didn't result in compromise, so satan upped the ante.
Idol (Daniel Chapter 3)
The king Nebuchadnezzar was so mad with the three Jews because they wouldn't bow and worship his image of gold. He threatened them with death in a furnace unless they did so.
They refused to bow to the idol, claiming that they didn't need to defend themselves and that God would either save them from being burnt or even if he didn't, they would not worship the idol anyway.
They were indeed thrown into the furnace, but not harmed. The king then promoted them.
Different Idol (Daniel Chapter 6)
Some authorities who were jealous of the favour of Daniel and his friends set them up to be thrown into the lion's den if they did not pray to the king, Darius this time. Daniel was caught worshipping God and defying the decree, so he was thrown into the lion's den. Again, he came out unharmed and the king changed his decree to make everyone revere the God of Daniel.
At every point of challenge, Daniel and his friends were true to their God and did not need to put on wolfs' clothing in order to witness to their captors and prove God's power.
It's pretty clear with Daniel that the temptation for deceit starts harmlessly enough. No one needs to know. What damage can this do? But if we give in at this basic level (thinking it doesn't matter with this, but if it gets more severe of course I won't do it...) we lose credibility if then we reject something on the basis of our morality. We lose the high moral ground so to speak.
All over the world, Christians are persecuted for their faith. We tend to think of this happening in regimes unfriendly to Christianity such as China, the Middle East, Indonesia, South America and the horrors perpetrated by Islamic State. But think back to the Columbine massacre in America where Rachel Scott was shot because she would not deny Jesus.
This brings up a very uncomfortable question: given a choice, would we don wolf's clothing and live on earth for a while longer, or remain a sheep and possibly be fast-tracked to heaven?
Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon about sheep and wolves in 1877, declared that the power of a Christian must lie in his holy heart, in his earnest tongue and in his look of love. If we go in the midst of wolves, we have no need to pretend to be a wolf in order to gain their attention.
Aira Chilcott B.Sc (Hons), M. Contemp Sci, Cert IV in Christian Ministry and Theology, Cert IV in Training and Evaluation, Grad Dip Ed., began her working life at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, investigating characteristics of cancer cells. Turning to teaching in the Christian school system provided opportunities to learn theology, more science, mission trips and explore the outdoors through bushwalking and other exploits. Now retired, Aira is a panelist for Young Writers and volunteers at a nature park. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html