Self-defense is a good thing to know — many women wish we possessed enough simple martial arts skill that we could tumble an assailant to the ground, whimpering.

But physically defending ourselves isn’t the only arena of importance, and even if we can’t find, or afford, a class on Jackie Chan basics, we can — and should — develop a means of protecting ourselves from the verbal, social, emotional, and manipulative attacks of others. Mental martial arts is within the grasp of all of us.

Purple Iris inspirational original watercolor of flower in meadow by Steve Henderson licensed print at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.com
There is beauty in the single flower, set apart from the rest in the meadow. Purple Iris, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed print at Framed Canvas Art.

The other day I made a comment on an article about church culture, along the lines of,

“If you don’t like where you are, and no one is listening to you, then why are you staying? Pick up your checkbook and leave.”

The response was expected, another reader reproving,

“This sounds like a Lone Wolf Christian stance, advocating that people leave the fold.”

Well, yes, it is — although I smile at the irony of a Lone Wolf departing the sheep fold. Really skillful wolves stay in the flock, mingling with the sheep, and gently prodding them along the nice, wide path that leads to outrageously green pasture kept weed-free with generous application of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical additives. There’s plenty to eat, but it’s not particularly nourishing or healthy, but no one tells the sheep that.

And the sheep don’t ask.

Group-Think versus Independent Thought

The Lone-Wolf Christian is an aspersion cast upon anyone who questions the status quo, and for many people, being hit with this charge is enough to shut them up, because the idea is strong, and strongly reinforced, that there is nothing worse than leaving the group and walking off, all by oneself. After all, we collectively remember our public school experience, in which the losers on the playgrounds are the ones who wish they could spend time in the library, as opposed to following the leaders in whatever games they propound. One wonders why these former are considered the losers.

The opposite spectrum of the Lone-Wolf Christian, however, is the Go-Along-With-Whatever-The-Group-Says believer (not quite as catchy, you know?), and in a society that prides itself on a history of bold pioneers setting out in wagons to forage a new life away from the conventions of the old one, it’s odd that we would embrace fitting in, whatever the cost, as such a virtue.

But “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him,” Jesus tells his disciples in John 13:16.

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

What is Christ’s example?

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)

Seriously, this guy never fit into the culture around Him.

Eschewing the Approval of Men

But the approval of man was not something Christ sought:

“Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” (John 2:24)

It’s intriguing to note that in the context of this last verse, Jesus had been clearing the temple, and He was approached by “the Jews,” representative of the religious establishment, demanding to know under whose authority He was doing these things. He was upsetting the status quo, causing people to ask questions, and interrupting the flow of money, this latter, as it is today, potentially the biggest offense.

Indeed, when you ask yourself, “Just why did the religious leaders dislike Jesus so much?” you can’t get a better answer than John 11:48-49, in which the elite cartel gets together and discusses The Problem:

“‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.'”

Follow the money, and you will be led to what resides within the hearts of men.

Wolves IN the Fold

This is not to say that all churches are bad, nor that all who speak in Christ’s name are doing so falsely, although it’s always wise to remember Christ’s warning in Matthew 7:15:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

Lady of the Lake inspirational original oil painting of woman in gold skirt in mountains by Steve Henderson licensed prints at Art.com, Amazon.com, Framed Canvas Art, iCanvasART, and Great Big Canvas
It’s very difficult to think, concentrate, focus, and meditate in a group setting, and there’s nothing wrong with going off, by ourselves, to someplace quiet. Lady of the Lake, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art. Amazon, and Art. com.

It is to say, however, that our churches are just as much a part of our culture as our universities, our media, our political arena, our medical establishment, our corporate mentality, and in the same way that these areas can be, and indeed have been, infected by the iniquitous corruption of the world of men, so the wolves, and their teaching, can enter the religious arena.

It is the responsibility of all Christians to stay awake, be vigilant, and ask questions, and when the church service starts to look like a pop concert, or a business seminar, or a team-meeting at work, it’s time to ask, “What is going on here? Is this necessary, Biblical, or helpful?”

Initially, you’ll just be called difficult, obstreperous, possibly disobedient if you are a woman, and this should be enough to quiet most people down. If not, a gentle admonition from a leader, to not stir the waters, so that the weaker members of the fold won’t be damaged, may finish the job.

But once you start asking questions, and looking for answers to them in the Bible as opposed to the reassurances of men, you don’t stop, even when you do shut up, and if the group in which you operate is not open to discussion or change, you are left with the choice to stay, and accept the situation, or leave.

And once you leave, you get that appellation of Lone Wolf.

If this is where you are, be encouraged, because,

1) You are no more than your Master, the ultimate Lone Wolf,

2) He has a history of calling people out to new land,

and

3) You won’t stay alone. He has other sheep, in other sheep pens, and He puts His people together.

It just won’t look socially normal, traditional, conventional, and expected. Very little about following Jesus is.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I and my family were called away years ago, and we interact with God’s people daily, in the oddest, most disparate, but singularly encouraging ways. We keep looking forward, and have no desire to go back.

Posts complementing this one are

We Don’t Need Celebrity Christian Permission to Stand up for Ourselves

Questioning Convention: It’s Part of Growth

Is Your “Personal Relationship” with Jesus Dysfunctional?

The Misfit Christian (my book for the Lone Wolves)

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