Scientists have offered several reasons why Zebras have stripes. Leading theories suggest it has something to do with warding off disease-carrying flies, or the number and thickness of stripes could be to help regulate body temperature in more extreme climates (per UCLA). When I was a youngster, which I guess at 30-years-old I still am to most, I was taught that the stripes served as a kind of camouflage. Instead of seeing an individual zebra, a lion would look out and see a large, amorphous blob of black and white with lots of legs.
Surviving as a Zebra, or any herd animal for that matter, means sticking with the group. You have to eat where they eat, sleep where they sleep, and drink the water they drink. Otherwise, you end up on a fast track to becoming something else’s lunch.
Human beings have similar instincts. We tend to stick to our tribes. From a young age we are taught to cheer for that football and root against the other one. We are taught to not trust strangers. And if you grew up like me, then we were taught that our church had everything figured out, while all the other churches couldn’t consider themselves true Christians… you know, like us.
This is the problem with being a zebra.
You see, being in a tribe is super helpful, and it has a lot of benefits. There is safety, security, comfort, and a sense of belonging. There may even be financial benefits to staying within your tribe. Leaving may mean being written out of the will or missing out on a well-paying position in the family business.
But sometimes you get the sense that life is bigger than your tribe. There may be this feeling that there is new creation out there somewhere and if you could just taste it, if you could just see it, then you could take it back to your tribe and you could all move into this new place which flows with milk and honey.
That’s when you find out that even after 40 years of wilderness wandering and 400 years of slavery, it’s not easy to convince others that there may be more to life than they think.
Now you have a tough choice to make. Because once you see, you can’t unsee. Once you tase the milk and honey, you can’t untaste. So, you can stay within your tribe and not do anything to trouble the waters, but the problem with this is you know they would be so much happier if they could just taste and see what God has shown you.
You can also go out on your own, but the trouble with this route is our instinct to stick with the herd in order to survive is so strong that it can be almost impossible to do.
And in some cases, unfortunately, if the tribe senses that you no longer like the water they choose or the grassy plains they prefer, then you may find yourself kicked out of the herd.
Jesus said the gospel is like a sword that can divide father and son, mother and daughter (Matthew 10:35). Staying within your tribe has its benefits, but it can also turn into the thing that keeps you from the path God has made for you. Taking that risk can be one of the most difficult decisions you make, but the freedom, joy, and peace that you will find in the unburdened gospel of Jesus is life changing—taste and see for yourself.