Lion, Wolves and Lambs

With the approach of Advent, we begin to prepare for the new covenant as issued in the birth of Jesus. As Christians, we believe that God’s physical intervention in time and space is the fulfillment of Hebrew prophets; in Isaiah 65, God promises that “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.” This new earth brings a relationship with humanity so close that “Before they call, I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hearken to them,” and so peaceful that “The wolf and the lamb shall graze alike, and the lion shall eat hay like the ox” (Isaiah 65:24-25). The psalmist too, rejoices, “for he will rule the world with justice and the people with equity” (Psalm 98:9).

The joy of these scriptures is tempered by Jesus’ assurance that the gospel is essentially divisive in a world where injustice, deceit, and hatred are plentiful. Not only will “nation rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” but his followers will be persecuted “because of my name.” The contrast of Jesus’ words with Isaiah’s are striking: the savior will bring peace between the lion and lamb, while the gospel is certain to bring persecution and hardship.

Luke’s emphasis on eschatological themes was certainly influenced by the situation in his community, which expected Jesus’ return at any moment, and yet his words continue to speak the truth to contemporary Christians. We still struggle with how to pursue the gospel amidst the reality of sin. The first communities wrestled with this reality and instructed, for example, that those who are “disorderly” be held in community and not rejected: “Do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:15).

We must continually acknowledge that we live our faith as broken people; Christianity does not make us faultless, but compels us to work together despite our limitations. Almost 2,000 years removed, despite recent events, we no longer look for signs of the end of times, but for new beginnings–the beginning of peace, justice, and true community, where one’s faults do not result in exclusion, but accountability and love.

Adapted from Renew International: Renew International: Prayer Time, Cycle C