A Wolf in Shepherd's Clothing

Man of God - there is no more dangerous title. No other three words with the capacity to empower one to accomplish great good or great evil. Since we arrived in the banana republic, this suspicion has been confirmed time and time again.

We have lived among Men of God that inspire entire communities into humble, sacrificial action - working with no thought to personal gain or potential pain. These men often accomplish more good in one month that most of will in an entire lifetime. Speaking words of truth, hope, and liberation, these men and women break bonds of oppression that have trapped families for generations. Exhausted, taken advantage of, without support, often despised, threatened, and assaulted, they live to free others from the lies of within and without that whisper and then shout that they are worthless, abandoned, and forgotten. And then, there are the others...
There are those that work under the same guise that throw entire communities into utter darkness - reaching such perverse levels of oppression and manipulation that adherents and observers can no longer see the light. In a subtle, but venomous reversal of roles - these false Men of God seek to empower only themselves, often at the expense of the poor and vulnerable. Instead of casting aside the bondage of the enslaved, they take up new chains and hunt for the weak, old, and young -- binding them to themselves with deception and subtle torquing of the truth. They promise the always on-the-way, but never arriving blessings of a false faith. These religious men and women have perhaps been poisoned in their past by another and perhaps know nothing else to do other than pass the same cup on to their adherents, but the damage is deadly nonetheless.

These adherents exist like victims caught in some sort of hidden truth-or-lie, whitewater whirlpool, with hope and despair in incredible proximity once within grasp. Light is terrifyingly visible, but the frigid tug of deep darkness is relentless, until finally exhaustion and confusion overwhelm. Subtle twisting of the truth turns out to be a much more precarious situation than an outright lie. Nobody that loves life ever leaps headlong into deadly rapids; it's the invisible undertow in the beautiful river that hides death.

A difficult but essential part of the life of any Christian is to identify the difference between rivers that give life, and those that hide death; the shepherds that care for sheep and those that eat them. As a good friend here once told us, 
"If a wolf can dress in a sheep's clothing, then there is no reason that a crocodile can't dress as a shepherd."
We are all called to protect the poor, weak, vulnerable, old and young - this is not exclusively the work of men of the cloth. We are people of the light, people of grace, people of compassion - but we are also called to be people of justice. Never should we hesitate to intervene on behalf of the abused, certainly never due to the position or title of the abuser. May we ever, as broken people liberated from oppression, rise to needs of our brothers and sisters that are still in chains and those in danger of being enslaved to a false Christ.

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