My mother’s relationship with the deer in her community has been fodder for a great many of my articles over the years. She has named half a dozen of them. They give birth in her yard. They eat out of her hand. They watch her from outside her kitchen window and start gathering in the back yard when she approaches the door. Cattle feed and watermelon rinds will do that, apparently.
My mother is the gentlest soul I know. Seeing her interact with the deer kind of makes sense, in a weird sort of way. Dad’s relationship with them is somewhat more puzzling. Although certainly a gentle soul himself, Dad was the one who taught me to aim a rifle at one of these creatures and shoot to kill. I spent my entire childhood staring up at the mounted head of a deer the size of a small cow. My dad’s work. I ate many a mess of chicken fried steak made with venison — cooked by my mom, so I guess she is complicit as well, in a way. And now the great deer slayer is feeding them cantaloupe — not to fatten them up, but just because it is pleasant, peaceful way to pass a decade or two.
And I’m part of the hypocrisy as well now. Two of them ate pellets out of my hand during my recent trip to Burnet. They had no way of knowing, of course, that I had snuffed out the life of a couple of their Alabama cousins in recent months. But I knew. And like my parents, I saw no conflict of interest. I enjoyed the one, I enjoyed the other.
I’m trying to see this phenomenon from the perspective of the deer. All of their instincts are telling them to stay far away from the humans. But they pose no obvious threat. And the food is good. Everyone else is buying in, so why not?
Let’s expand on that thought a bit. But instead of deer, let’s talk about sheep. Jesus’ sheep.
Anyone who has spent quality time in the Lord’s fold knows the truth of Paul’s words in Acts 20:29-30. Wolves sometimes look like sheep. Sometimes they used to be sheep — even leaders among the sheep.
The sheep convince themselves that their instincts are flawed because it is in their short-term interest to think so. The flock is at peace. No one is starving. No predators threaten from the outside. And the wolves-in-disguise do actually serve the interests of the sheep from time to time. But a wolf is a wolf. And the wolf serves himself, first and foremost. The hireling of John 10:12-13 is in the end no better than whatever or whoever it is that poses a threat to the sheep. Only one whose agenda is uncluttered, such as the good Shepherd Himself (John 10:11), can be trusted with the lives of the sheep.
Read Ezekiel 34:1-4. The wolf will eat the sheep. It is only a matter of time and circumstance.
It is ultimately the job of the deer, and the sheep, to protect themselves. God has given them — us — the wherewithal to do so. We honor those who feed us the bread of life (Galatians 6:6), but we test the words of all those claiming to be guided by the Spirit (1 John 4:1). We submit to elder authority whenever we can do so in harmony with God’s word (Hebrews 13:17), but we accept credible testimony against them and act accordingly (1 Timothy 5:19-22), Passages such as Romans 16:17-18 and Titus 3:10-11 must be respected and obeyed, particularly when the troublemaker under consideration is trusted with the souls of his brethren.
Diotrephes must be identified, branded, and (if he does not turn) banished. His soul, and the body of Christ, depends upon it.