Yes, we named our pigs. We always called the males Hamlet, and the females Baconette, except the year we had two boys and the extra one we named Ribster. It reminded us from the beginning why we had them, and trust me—by the time a pig is ready for slaughter it isn’t cute any longer. It is about as disgusting a creature as you can imagine. Slaughtering it was never a problem. The boys understood early on that we needed these animals to survive and respected them for it.
Just across the south fence and past the pigpen stands a live oak grove, a peaceful shady retreat we often wished had been on our property instead of the neighbor’s. He has built a fire ring surrounded by several chairs, with a wood rack between two trees. He planned outings with his children and cook-outs with his friends and quiet evenings with his wife. He planted some Australian cypresses along the fence and now, after nearly ten years, they finally conceal his leafy sanctuary, a sanctuary he rarely visits any longer because his children are grown and living hundreds of miles away with all of his grandchildren. I doubt he used his beautiful spot more than half a dozen times. His wife passed unexpectedly several years ago. He has rebuffed friendly overtures and declined invitations to church. We seldom see him any longer, and there hasn’t been even a lonely fire in the fire ring for three or four years. So much for great plans.
Chloe and I walk along that line of cypresses, peeking through the limbs sometimes, but usually watching the bottom of the fence line instead. Up ahead of me as usual, Chloe will occasionally stop and sniff around and when I reach her, sure enough, there is a depression in the ground where something slid under the fence during the night. Possums, coons, foxes, terrapins, sometimes we come across them during the day, but usually not. The depressions are well worn and even if we fill up the hole, it will be back with a couple of days, or a new one will show up just a few feet down the fence line. Interlopers will always find a way, and I can always tell from Chloe’s attention and sniff pattern whether something more dangerous has slunk under or not.
That’s exactly why God gave us elders, because “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” Acts 20:29. Peter warns about false teachers who will infiltrate with “destructive heresies” 1 Pet 2:1. Jesus himself warned about “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” Matt 7:15. Let me tell you, sheep are just as stupid as pigs are disgusting. We are too easily led astray, and once they get us away from our shepherds we are just as easily eaten up.
Our shepherds have a difficult job. They deserve our respect. They spend all hours of the day and night protecting us from things we do not even recognize as dangerous. Like Chloe, they see potential problems we in our ignorance and inexperience miss and all they get for it is accusations about traditionalism, legalism, and cynicism. We can make their job easier by spending more time in the word so we can recognize false teaching; more time with our brethren so we can share practical knowledge; and more time in safe places instead of hanging around the fence line in the dark of night where the wolves are waiting.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1