Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV)
This time it was not a roaring lion; it was like it has been many nights this past summer, a coyote, sometimes a single hunter, most times in a pack. We knew he had been back and this time, bold enough to be up to the house right by our garage doors. The evidence of his attack was everywhere. White chicken feathers were strewn across our driveway, it looked like it had been snowing down or that there had been an Olympic-worthy feather pillow fight in our driveway.
Our chickens free-range, that is they roam anywhere across our property, usually staying within the acre upon which is their coop. Most of the time they are in their brood, following closely to one another. At night, if they are not in the coop, which is a frequent occurrence in the summertime, they spread out in small groups. Some go high, up to about fifteen feet on our ‘ham radio’ antenna tower or the roof of their coop. Many, however, stay near the horse’s run-in. They enjoy the heat lamp there when it’s cold and the fan when it’s warm; but always the protection provided by 800-pound horses. There are those few, though, that wander off by themselves, away from the protection of the brood. Those few are getting fewer. Being face to face with a predator like a coyote is not a pleasant experience, I’m sure.
Did you hear about the man who explained to his hunting buddies how, when pounced upon by a huge Grizzly bear, deep in the woods, he saved his life with just one shot from his small Jennings .25 caliber semi-auto pistol? Here is his story…
There I was, right in the path of the biggest Grizzly Bear any man has seen in the whole of the Northeast! It stood like a mountain in front of me! It’s paws, as big as my head were outstretched high above his head as he was ready to swoop that gigantic paw with razor-sharp claws right across me. It would be my end if I did not act and fast! My only defense was my tiny Jennings .25 caliber pistol. It only took one shot! The shot was, I must admit, timed perfectly and my aim was exact! One single round into my wife’s bad knee and there was no way she could out run me! Yes, sir; that little Jennings saved my life!
Probably not a story for a pre-marriage counseling environment but, for those of us married for any length of time… The biggest problem our friend had in the woods (or maybe his second biggest problem) was that he and his wife were away from the safety of the group. They were facing dangers for which they were not prepared and they had no real protection. That is the same predicament that some of my hens have found themselves in and a fairly usual circumstance for sheep who graze in open land surrounded by predators.
Jesus used the analogy of a good shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are safe in the fold and goes to search for the one that is lost. The shepherd knows that, alone, the individual sheep has no protection and will be killed. He may also realize that if a mountain lion or other predator finds food in this one location, he will be back, and the rest of the flock is endangered as well; including the shepherd!
The analogy of the sheep being lost and alone speaks to us in our living in community with one another. Paul admonishes us to not neglect our sharing together regularly as the body of Christ, the church. Sharing community together benefits us as we share our life experiences with one another. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are in one of three groups.
- They have already been where we are and can help us avoid the dangers.
- They are currently walking the same path we are, and we can walk together to help and encourage each other.
- They will someday soon be walking where we are, and we can help them manage the path ahead of them that we have just been on.
It is not only the lost sheep that is in danger. The sheep who is lost can also be endangering the rest of the flock and the shepherd. Just as the coyote has found a free meal at my hens’ expense has now returned for additional meals and the lion who enjoys dining on the stray sheep may return to attack the flock, danger comes to the body of believers when one of its own is away from his walk with Christ. Scripture admonishes us not to give the devil a foothold. Sin, like an infection, in one part of the body can spread and infect other parts. A virus spreading through a flock of sheep endangers all of the sheep and the shepherd for he is not invulnerable to disease. I am speaking, of course, to the human shepherd Christ has placed in leadership of a local body of believers and not the Good Shepherd.
The risks of walking alone can also be found when individually we are separated from God’s Word. Even if we are going through the motions of body life, when we are outside a regular habit of daily Bible reading and prayer then we are essentially saying to God, I’ve got this… just hang loose and I’ll call you if I need you.
Not feeding ourselves regularly on the meat found in scripture and then spending time talking to our Heavenly Father, listening for what He has to say to us is walking all alone through the dark forest of today’s world and we are at great risk! Whether a roaring lion or a grizzly bear, the risks of being alone when the spiritual battles comes is a dangerous one. We must not go into the spiritual battles of everyday life unarmed. The Bible is the only offensive weapon given to us as we put on the full armor of God described in Ephesians 6. We must not just carry the sword of truth, but know very well how to use it.
We can talk all the bravado we want about being a lone-wolf, an island to ourselves or any other rendition of why we avoid living our life in community we choose; but, it does not change one simple fact. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”