Language is a funny thing. If you had lived in the 1500’s you might have gathered small sticks into bundles for kindling and carried your “faggots” home to help with fire building. If you were an elderly woman in the 1600’s eking out a meager existence by making faggots and selling them, you would have been called the pejorative term “faggot-woman” or “faggot” for short.
If you were a fool or a simpleton in the 1800’s, you might be a dope. In the sixties, you might have smoked it. But now you would be excellent.
It is in this light that I have been ruminating(no pun intended) on the word “sheep”, which seems to have become a pejorative term in today’s culture used to describe people who willingly become vaccinated or wear masks or follow directives from authorities.
I don’t have a desire to examine the politics of this, but as a Christian, I have been contemplating the spiritual aspect of this term as well as the oft repeated concept of not wanting to be a “sheep” because all I need to do is trust God for my health.
Yes, in the Old Testament prophets often warn that the people of God were like sheep without a shepherd, with all of the chaos that implies. But the key word is WITHOUT. Even our psalmist acknowledges that the God who made us, who calls us His own, declares we are the sheep of His pasture.
That same God, in His mercy, gave us a Shepherd, one who would never leave us or forsake us. And, as I get to know Him better, my contentedness in my “sheep-hood” deepens.
I freely confess I am not a Biblical scholar and rather classify myself as a fool for Christ. But I do know this to the core of my being. I am a sheep.
I am living in New Testament times, and the sheep of God’s hand, of which I am one, are no longer without a shepherd.
My Shepherd, Jesus, made this very clear, “My sheep, listen to my voice;I know them, and they follow Me.” That’s what the sheep of God’s hand do – they follow.
But they don’t follow the ways of this world where position and privilege and personal liberties and power are the currency. They don’t follow political leaders or pledge allegiance to flags or governments. The sheep of God’s hand follow a Shepherd, one whose sole purpose on this earth is to serve others.
This is the Shepherd who is “good,” and His goodness is revealed in this: He willingly lays down His life for His sheep. If my purpose is to be more and more transformed into the likeness of Jesus, then any movement in that direction leads me away from self and towards doing whatever I can, laying down my life if need be, for the sake of others.
You may hear in these times some people demanding their rights and freedoms, but may you never hear that from followers of Jesus. You may hear the word “sheep” thrown at you like an epithet. Wear it like a crown. Because our Shepherd Himself was led “like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”
Amidst the cacophony of the brokenness of these times, I listen for the sound of my Beloved Shepherd who calls me to lay down my life for the sake of others. And in the context of His ultimate sacrifice, what is being asked of me in these times comes at little cost.
I am a fool for Christ.
I am a sheep with a Shepherd.
And I experience my deepest peace when I listen to His voice and follow Him to the best of my ability each and every day in His mission to sacrifice and to serve.