Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Cows and Bears
Isaiah 11:7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
The vision of a paradise where the Prince of Peace will reign is penned by the prophet. The description is given in terms that would shock the people. It was not uncommon to have bears attack livestock and it was the responsibility of the shepherd to carefully guard the flock. In this vision of a new reality where the Prince of Peace reigns with all power and authority a strange picture begins to appear. This vision makes no sense because everyone knows that cows and bears do not graze together. The bears graze on the cows and the young are especially vulnerable.
This vision of a new reality is a foreshadowing of the kingdom of God. When the Prince of Peace comes, he will usher in a new era, one in which the “already” of the kingdom of God will be visible here on earth and ultimately lead to a world in which the “cow and the bear” will graze together. The vision of the new reality was a promise for those who received Isaiah’s prophecy, but it is a current hope and true reality for today.
What does a vision of cows and bears look like in the kingdom of God? Metaphorically we discover cows and bears every day of our lives. Cows serve a particular purpose in the world. They are a more gentle animal from whom we can obtain milk and meat — both for sustenance. Let’s say these are the individuals who love to provide for others. They give of themselves sacrificially because their concern is for the greater good.
Along comes the bear, one who is big, strong and able to wield a force that can be destructive. It could be the individual that seems loud, overbearing, pushy and walks all over the cows. At the same time, those skills can be put to good use for even today the bear is fighting for survival. That power is used to survive in a difficult world and it ushers in fear and respect from the others in the animal kingdom.
Just google “cows and bears” and you’ll get all kinds of results that show you the danger in putting these creatures together. Mostly you will discover videos of bears eating cows.
What if we happen to have cows and bears in our family, in the church, or in our community? Would we mostly discover tales of the bears eating the cows? In other words, are we communities in which the powerful bear eats up the weaker cows? If Isaiah’s prophecy is to be true, then life within the kingdom of God becomes transformational because of the presence of the Prince of Peace. It is the Prince of Peace who takes the bear and transforms all the power and energy and utilizes it for the good of the kingdom. The Prince of Peace removes all fear from the cow, for the cow is now empowered by the presence of Jesus Christ! (Yes — still metaphorically speaking — don’t say Carla is talking about Jesus being a cow!)
This vision of a new reality with cows and bears grazing together looks like a foretaste of the kingdom of God. The sacrificing and nurturing individual is never harmed by the one with power. Instead they become a beautiful synergistic partnership, recognizing each other’s skills. The cow provides milk for the bear and her cubs. The bear protects the cow and brings leadership. The community becomes healthy by exercising love and patience, embracing the diversity found within the new kingdom.
All of our communities are to be a reflection of the hope to be found in the kingdom of God. The Prince of Peace ushered in a new era with a hope that can be experienced in our lives right now. We are not to be turned off by people who are radically different than we are, but we are to embrace them as people who help to complete us. It may not be easy, but the results will stun the world. Cows and bears are not supposed to get along — but suddenly they do. This is the work of the Holy Spirit alive within those who have accepted the Prince of Peace. This is the kingdom reality and we rejoice when cows and bears learn to graze together.
Lord, in your creative energy you have made us all different, yet in your kingdom vision we are to partner together. Please, fill me with your love for my brother and sister and may we complete one another in a vision of the kingdom. Amen.