“You always try to be everything to everyone.”
When I first heard this song by the band Everclear, it rang true to me; I always did try to be everything and because of that, I lacked direction and purpose.
There is a problem in having too many choices and, in our desire to become everything, we end up becoming nothing.
That’s why Christians have something to learn from Sheep.
The key to knowing who I was, however, rested not on being everything– but being Who God Created Me to Be.
And God created me, and all of us, to become his sheep so that he could be our Shepherd.
It should come as no surprise that sheep are a major part of Christianity’s history. But to what extent? To give some perspective, sheep are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible while shepherding is referenced over 200 times.
Moses carried a shepherd’s staff to defeat the Egyptians.
King David was a shepherd boy before he was chosen to lead God’s people.
Jesus referred to himself often as both the “lamb” and the “Shepherd” — an interesting combination of symbols that generally are not thought to be inclusive of one another.
Sheep are, hands-down, the most important animal symbol in the Bible and yet, to the world’s eyes, are considered one of the most lowly and insignificant animals.
A good slur against someone’s intelligence is to call them a “sheep.” A quick search for “sheep” quotes on Google will come up with many derogatory analogies for sheep being the lesser, the worse, the undesirable choice of animal.
And yet, this animal is supposed to represent who we are as Christians. So what should we know about these animals to help us better understand ourselves?
1. Sheep are helpless without the Shepherd.
There was a funny story that I read online about a Merino Ram named Chris that got lost and grew over 80 lbs. of wool while he was missing.
When animal control services finally picked him up, he looked like a giant cotton ball and had suffered from skin tearing and burns from where the wool was pulling at his skin.
This type of sheep could not shed its wool and literally required the help of mankind to save him from a life of pain and suffering.
This is exactly who we are in Christ.
It’s hard to think of ourselves as completely at a loss without Divine Intervention, but anyone who has suffered a dark night knows that our power and our strength is a result of the safety and love that God has given us.
The moment that we reject God’s empowerment, we become helpless, terrified and easy prey to predators all around.
Like the Ram named Chris, we require the help of the Lord to keep us from becoming “overgrown” with sin. We cannot cut it out by ourselves. We need the help of our Lord’s heavenly shears.
2. Like sheep, we are creatures of faith and familiarity.
I have an opinion that not all Christians have. I believe that we already know God before we convert (if converted) and before we make a decision to follow God. Why?
Because of the sheep.
In John 10:14, the Lord declares, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
He doesn’t say that they will know me. He says that they know… as if they always did and always will. This makes a lot of sense when thinking of how the Lord called the disciples.
When approaching Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, he approached them as a stranger and gave them only a few words before they left everything and followed him. (Matthew 4:19)
Who would do that for any strange person who approached? To leave everything behind including family, friends and the stability of an occupation, the person must feel something truly powerful.
That powerful thing is the voice of the Shepherd which ignites our faith and pushes us into unfamiliar territory.
Sheep have to know the voice of their Shepherd otherwise they could be led astray by thieves or aptly named “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Have you ever heard a preacher speak and feel something funny inside that made you feel distrusting of their message?
Or when someone approached you in the name of the Lord, did you find yourself wanting to back away because of a feeling, despite their good appearance and words?
If you are walking in the faith and are truly seeking God, sometimes you may feel this way because your spirit knows that the person speaking is not one of your Shepherds. Have faith that your spirit is guided by God and you will be able to avoid many traps.
So, for people who are wondering if they are the chosen ones of God or if they are “good” enough to be one of God’s children, there is no need to worry. Who you are is who you have been for all eternity. You are God’s sheep and He is your Shepherd.
If you are to believe God’s promise (which you should!) then you only need to follow His voice to lead you to good pasture. And if you are wondering what God’s voice sounds like, believe me, you will know when you hear it.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” (Matthew 18:12)
So much more will God do for you.
3. Every sheep is also a shepherd.
I read another interesting article recently from the BBC entitled “Sheep are not stupid, and they are not helpless either” by Harriet Constable, an environmental journalist.
In her article, Constable described some of the stereotypes that mankind associates with sheep. In all truth, I held many of these beliefs prior to reading her article including the idea that sheep were helpless.
According to Constable, however, this is simply not true.
There are attributes that God created in sheep that help them defend themselves. The most important attribute is their pack mentality.
Sheep mostly stick together and alert one another to danger and even defend one another.
According to the article, there was a study done over a three-year period with rams that showed that they really did care for weaker ones in their group and protected one another. They have highly structured social groups and even play with each other.
Indeed, this discovery validates the Christian mission to be shepherds to one another. It’s true that we need Christ more than anything else in the world. We can’t do anything by ourselves.
However, with the ability that God has given us, we are truly capable of fulfilling our mission of caring for one another and doing our small part in protecting one another from danger.
And never forget, that Christ made this our duty – “Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’” (John 21:16)
The world doesn’t respect sheep and that is completely understandable. To be a sheep you must live your life by faith, be a little dopey and trust in something bigger than yourself. These are not the things that make you a Fortune 500 CEO or help you fight in a dog-eat-dog world.
A sheep’s life is a passive existence, constantly waiting on a shepherd to call you and lead you wherever he deems fit for you to go.
But when that shepherd is the Lord, would you ever want it any other way?
Let the world think what they will. As Aesop once said, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Want to Learn More? Check out these books for insight on the Sheep/Shepherds’ Life!