As I went out for a walk, the sidewalk at the end of my driveway seemed to be moving. Upon closer examination, the movement wasn’t the sidewalk (thankfully), but rather an army of ants in near perfect formation. They measured about 2/3 of the width of the city sidewalk and about as long again. I cannot begin to guess how many there were, perhaps a thousand or more, but they were tightly packed in a near perfect square. I only wish I had a decent camera with me at the time to try and capture the spectacle.
The whole thing reminded me of the old military media films of goose-stepping soldiers marching on parade; there didn’t seem to be an ant out of place. Perhaps that is exactly where the expression “an army of ants” comes from.
Where they originated, I do not know, but when I caught up with them, the ants seemed to be on a determined mission as they passed the front of my property, headed about 30 or 40 feet in front of my neighbour’s property, and then suddenly banked right and headed into my neighbour’s front lawn. Then, as I watched, the whole front lawn at my neighbour’s house seemed to come alive with blades of grass moving in virtually every direction.
As I pondered the event, it occurred to me that they were all side-by-side and did not seem to have a leader out front giving directions; they were all equals, united as if with a common goal or agenda. Suddenly I saw a spiritual application that begged some further thought.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Proverbs 6: 6-8; NIV)
Solomon apparently thought the lesson of the ants important enough to be included in his proverbs. In context it speaks to the lazy bum who chooses to sit back and do nothing, only to find that he has nothing but poverty in the end while everyone else is enjoying the harvest.
However, I see far more in the verse than only that. I also see a lesson against leadership by an individual or smaller sub-group. As a matter of fact, I saw no leadership at all. I only saw a tightly-knit group marching together in unity.
Now imagine if the church body functioned like that? Imagine if the church would be content with no leadership (other than Christ Himself) as it goes marching together, shoulder to shoulder, and arm in arm? For some reason the old hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers” comes to mind.
Imagine if we as the Body of Christ overwhelmed our communities with the Gospel message, like the ants overwhelmed my neighbour’s front lawn? Imagine if we were really united, and not full of dissensions and factions and other acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:20)? Imagine if the church really did “go to the ant” and consider its ways? Imagine if we really did begin to wise up and function as the body that God intended us to be? Imagine a church that actually heeded Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17: 20ff), instead of just justifying themselves in their disunity.
One final thought: I suspect that if those ants functioned like many in the church today, they still wouldn’t have found their new home in my neighbour’s lawn, and if they did, it would only have been a handful that arrived there. Why? Only a handful would have arrived because if they were like the church they would have chosen leaders for themselves, and found themselves divided under those leaders. Out in front of the masses we would have seen Pastor-ant and Reverend-ant and Bishop-ant and even Priest-ant. Some of the ants would have followed the Paul-ant, and others the Apollos-ant, and still others the Cephas-ant (1 Corinthians 1:12). Who knows where they would have all ended up as they divided themselves across their various divisions and (dare I say it?) anti-Christ denominations.
Imagine if the church operated like the ants. Hmm