Getting our Faces Eaten


It is amazing what comes into my mind during Bible study. This week it was a quote from Jonah Goldberg, one of my favorite writers, “Bears want to eat your face.” The quote was from a column he wrote about our culture’s tendency to think wild animals are cute and cuddly, even though when given the opportunity most would eat us.

The verse that triggered this mental wandering was Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Jesus was talking to the 12 apostles as they were preparing to go out into Israel proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven. He taught them that while the news was good, the response of the Jews might be hostile. They would be like sheep, the world would be like wolves.

Sheep were to be wise, careful and shrewd. They were to be as nice and as polite as possible to wolves, do everything they could to appease them. Regardless of their efforts, when all was said and done, the wolves would still want to eat their faces.

So it is with Christians in the midst of a hostile world. We can be kind, humble, gentle and nice, as accommodating as possible, and people will still hate us.

Jesus told his disciples that in spite of their shrewdness and innocence they would still be charged with crimes, publicly flogged, and called to give account before governors and kings. Families would turn against one another, and they would be widely hated by others. All of this for “his name’s sake.”

This called to mind the recent story of Peter Vlaming, a Christian school teacher in Virginia. A girl student in one of his 2017 classes returned in 2018 claiming to be a boy. Peter wanted to be respectful but did not want to support or encourage something he thought was wrong. His solution was to address the student by her new chosen name but to not use male pronouns. He thought it was a reasonable compromise. As shrewd and as innocent as he was trying to be, it was not good enough. The wolves ate his face.

The student was participating in a class room exercise in which she wore virtual reality goggles, and therefore could not see where she was going. Seeing her about to walk into a wall, the teacher called out to warn the newly “male” student saying, “Stop her before she walks into the wall!” In his haste and concern he moenmtarily forgot to use the patients name and instead used the pronoun that the student had rejected.

All hell broke loose.

The student and her parents were incensed and complained to the school board. The school board voted to fire Peter, rejecting his offer to use the student’s name in place of the a pronoun. Just weeks before Christmas, the father of four was out of a job.

It would be easy for him to wonder what was happening, or where God was. Easy if he had not read Matthew 10. If he had, he would remember that Jesus had told his disciples that things like this would happen. He would see that he had been a lamb amidst wolves, and that he had been called before a court, for his name’s sake. When his story went national, millions of people learned that about a man whose faith in Christ was more important than his job. A man whose faith was real to him.

His story is sobering reality for all who bear the name of Christ. The world does not share our values. Standing up for what we believe may come at great cost. Our faces may get eaten. We will suffer, but we cannot say we haven’t been warned!


This is my midweek Bible post, shared a little late this week as I was out of town. For those not interested in religious posts, I post on other topics every weekend. If anyone wants to receive my posts in their email, just click the subscribe link on the page

Wanted: Shepherds and Laborers


Sheep do not have much in the way of defense mechanisms. They can run, they can climb steep hills, and they can gather in a circle (so it is harder for a predator to single them out). That is it. Domesticated sheep require care and attention in order to survive. Unattended they are prone to infections, parasites and predators. They need to be shepherded or they will die.

As Matthew 9 closes, Jesus looks on the crowds that are following him and is reminded of sheep without a shepherd. The were described as “harassed and helpless.” Other translations say the people were “confused and helpless” or “distressed and dispirited.”

When sheep are fearful, threatened or distressed their instinctive response is to gather together for safety. I wonder if it was the sight of the gathered crowds that triggered the analogy in Jesus’ mind. The people who were following Jesus, who formed the mob in His wake, were the common folk. Under worldly oppression from the Roman Empire and its soldiers and spiritually oppressed by religious leaders who told them they were unworthy of God’s blessing because they did not keep the law as they should, they gathered together and followed after Jesus.

They were a needy bunch. A review of the gospel accounts reveals that they were constantly pursuing Jesus, seeking healing, teaching and miracles. So desperate were they that on more than one occasion they did not remember to take food with them when they followed Jesus, forcing Jesus to miraculously feed over 4000 people.

Demanding, needy people can be annoying. It is easy to look at them and think they should be smarter and better. To conclude that they should plan better, prepare better, and take better care of themselves. I have often felt this way when confronted with particularly needy people, sometimes asking myself, “Why are people so ________” (Insert derogatory term here)

Jesus did not do this. When he looked at the needy people He saw them differently than I do. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd, as people in need of guidance, care and direction, people burdened and threatened by the world, gathered together in search of safety, in search of a savior.

Because Jesus saw them in this way his response was different than the one that has characterized me too often. I get annoyed, Jesus was moved with compassion. Deep inside his being, the plight of the people moved Him. It moved Him in a way that led Him to turn to his disciples with a specific request. He asked them to pray that God would raise up workers, workers who would reach out to the crowd and invite them into the kingdom of God. Their downtrodden state, instead of being a cause for dismissal was evidence that God was working in their lives and preparing their hearts to hear the Good News. Jesus saw this.

Jesus, who taught that it was the Poor in Spirit to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs, reminded his disciples that these people, poor and distressed and helpless, had been brought to a place where they could receive that kingdom.

This discussion from my men’s study led me to a simple and clear conclusion. I need to see the world like Jesus does.