It’s a word that, when you find out the real background, could offend you. It’s a word you’d not usually choose to describe yourself. Yet this word is right on the money when we place it in proper context to describe you and me – “sheep.”
I was raised a farm boy and even though we didn’t raise sheep for a living I knew something about them. I remember one year we bought a new-born lamb to raise for the fun of it. We named her “Corky.” It wasn’t until she began to grow and we learned about sheep we realized how appropriate this name really was.
There are several ways to describe sheep:
-Sheep are slow, weak and defenseless.
-Left to their own devices, they would starve to death.
-They are easily panicked by predators.
-They follow one another is sort of a “herd instinct.”
-They are particularly vulnerable to parasites and disease.
-They tend to overeat, and then lie down and can’t get up. (Can we say “Thanksgiving”?)
When all this is taken into consideration one wonders why sheep aren’t on the endangered species list. The answer? Sheep follow their shepherd who is responsible to provide for them and protect them.
Is it any wonder why Jesus used the illustration of sheep and shepherd to describe our relationship to Him? He wasn’t trying to insult us, but to help us understand how absolutely helpless we are without Him. Left to our own devices and natural cravings we just end up killing ourselves.
The only answer that makes any sense is to follow the Shepherd. Through faithful discipleship He’ll make us strong, defend us, meet our needs, give us courage, make us sensitive to right and wrong, heal us and give us self-control so we can experience the true fullness of life. (See John 10:1-18, especially verse 10.)
I’ll never forget Corky. And now that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ for some reason I’ve developed more compassion for sheep. Imagine that.