Evangelism is exciting, but it can seem like a suicide mission. Jesus’ words “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3) is a picture of the risks and dangers we sometimes face in the world and in the workplace.
Lambs are young, gentle, cuddly creatures, an apt metaphor for messengers of Christ. In Scripture, wolves represent people with evil intentions who hate and destroy others. To be sent as lambs among wolves suggests that the disciples were being sent to be devoured by ferocious, rapacious animals.
While wolves roam in packs, lambs tend to wander off by themselves into difficulty and danger. Yet Jesus distinctly said He was deliberately sending His disciples to minister as lambs, not lions, among wolves.
Clearly this means we can expect to be ravaged when we least expect it: in our homes, businesses, at pleasure, or even when combating sin. However, no matter what we encounter, it’s important to note that Jesus didn’t send us to labor in the spirit of wolves, who render evil for evil, but in the character of a lamb. For Jesus wasn’t referring to ordinary lambs. He was asserting that His disciples, especially novice evangelists, are to be like Him, the Lamb of God who serves the world with love, kindness, gentleness, forbearance, and forgiveness.
To go as lambs among wolves is also a surprising mission; but not to lambs, because they’ve been taught and trained to be like their Master, the Lamb of God. It is, however, surprising to wolves. They expect new disciples to behave like jackals, who perform their duties dishonestly or live like scavengers and accomplices of Satan. Wolves also expect evangelists to be as cunning as foxes, crafty and deceptive, who profane the name and cause of God.
So, if and when we show up and share the good news of God’s grace in the spirit of a lamb, it’s shocking and surprising to wolves. When we obey Jesus and go out to serve Him as lambs, we catch wolves off guard.
To go out as lambs among wolves is a sacred mission. When Jesus gave this charge to His 70 disciples, they were not recommended by the elite or recruited by the high priests or prominent people of their day. They were called and sent by Jesus Himself, who said, “Go! I am sending you!”
Ours is a sacred mission to be Christ’s witnesses. We are commissioned by the One Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the man with the nail-pierced hands.” Jesus saved us and sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in partnering with Him in the redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of lost humanity.
Just as Jesus sent those early disciples, so He sends us; not to merely love our wolflike neighbors as ourselves, but to love them as Christ, the Lamb of God, loves them.
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.