Everyone is familiar with the Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried wolf. But in case you do not know the story here it is: Once upon a time there was a shepherd-boy who watched a flock of sheep near his village. Three or four times a day the shepherd-boy would cry, “Wolf! Wolf!” and when the villagers came to help him, he laughed at them for their pains.
The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: “Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep”; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated and destroyed the whole flock.
The phrase, “the boy who cried wolf” has become a symbol for people who constantly warn of coming doom to the point no one listens to them anymore, even if the doom is a reality.
I wonder if the evangelical church in the United States is guilty of crying wolf?
I grew up in a very conservative, evangelical (some preferred the term “fundamental”) environment. (I still consider myself to be a conservative evangelical, even though I despise labels.) Growing up, I remember preachers talking about the coming doom surrounding 1984, or whenever the nation of Israel had been around a generation, which, according to biblical prophecy, would usher in the end of time. Often these ministers would stay in my parent’s house and I would ease-drop as they discussed the seriousness of those things until late into the evening.
My granddad, who I admired greatly, could “preach the hell” out of anyone.
I have read most of Hal Lindsey’s books and listened to countless tapes, lectures, and movies about the end of the world.
While I was in college, some guy wrote a little book titled 88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988. When that didn’t happen, he revised the book, calling it, 89 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1989 and sold thousands more copies.
Then, 9/11 occurred and once again evangelicals led the cries that the end was near and doom was unavoidable. Now, after the third consecutive “most important election in my lifetime,” many evangelicals are once again crying, “Wolf!” But this time very few people seem to be listening…including me.
And that’s unfortunate!
I believe the end is drawing near. Jesus is going to return…one day…maybe today or tomorrow…maybe another thousand years from now. Our responsibility is to live each day with the real expectation that today could be the day. But right now, all the doom and gloom and judgment talk is doing is turning those far away from God, even farther.
I think this is the reason Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).
The Apostle Paul tell us that discussing Jesus’ return and the end of the world should encourage us, not frighten us – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:3).
Please, don’t misunderstand what I am saying, I do believe in a coming judgment. I do believe there are difficult days ahead. But I also believe in grace, mercy, forgiveness, and Holy Spirit empowerment. I do believe we are to be vigilant and understand the times in which we live. But I also believe we are not to live in fear but in power, offering hope and security to those far from God.
And the more we cry wolf, the less people will pay attention when the danger does come.