I told my friend Susan Meissner a perilous ministry story about meeting and dealing with wolves in sheep’s clothing. I told her how I’d read all those false prophet scriptures and the wolves passages, never realizing that I’d interact with one directly in ministry one day. I guess I thought those warnings were for “back then” when the church was new. We walked a long stretch of the Pacific Ocean, she listening, me spilling my story.
When I first met the wolves, they appeared so sheeply that I felt sheepish in their presence. I didn’t measure up, certainly not to their standards. And I felt the weight of their judgment. Everything they said sounded like a sermon-a good one. Slick, polished, beautifully presented.
But then fissures formed. Their actions didn’t match up with their words. At first, it was subtle, but after a few months, everything came out. Lies. Deception. The real truth about the state of their hearts.
But these were leaders. In ministry. They’d been leaders for years. Surely, I must’ve read things wrong.
As their story played out, I realized I’d met wolves, wanting to use people for gain. It broke my heart. Jaded me. Made me cynical. All their words sounded Jesusy in the beginning, and I had believed them, took them at their word. You could point to them as examples of Christendom. And yet, they were far from Jesus.
In the end, they exemplified this:
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day, many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
The end of things was messy. Terrible. Confusing. Painful. Lots of wreckage and heartache.
I tried not to cry when I told Susan the story. But tears leaked, as they are wont to do.
Walking back to the car, I looked down in the sand. There, a small white figurine peered up at me. It looked like our cat, Madeline. I thought of my youngest, how she loved little things like this, and bent down. The “cat” was a wolf. A white wolf. A plastic white wolf that looked like a white sheep. I kid you not.
So Susan and I walked back to the shoreline. I wondered at the irony God placed in my path, how that white wolf peeked out from the sand at such a moment. With all the strength my wimpy arms could muster, I threw the wolf into the Pacific, watched it sink beneath the waves. And a little part of me felt free. But another part felt sad that there are wolves in the first place.
How about you? Have you ever met a wolf in sheep’s clothing?