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A Perspective on the Parable of the Lost Sheep
If a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doesn’t he not leave the ninety-nine, goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if he finds it, truly I say unto you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety-nine which did not astray.
Matthew 18:12-14 (paraphrased from King James Version)
This parable seems like a nice story, but has deep implications for Christians. The message is clear: God loves His people enough to search for them when they go astray.
However, some interesting questions arise:
Why did the one sheep go astray?
What is the shepherd like?
What kind of people are in the flock anyways?
A look at the flock
There are many stories throughout the Bible that illustrate God or Jesus as a shepherd who cares for the sheep, us. People are like sheep because (no offense) sheep are stupid. Sheep can be misled by their leaders.
For example, if someone puts a stick across a path, the sheep leaders will jump over the stick. When someone takes away the stick, the sheep will keep jumping just because their leaders did it. Smart, huh? Not. Sheep need direction and someone to care for them and guide them.
The sheep in the flock
Here are some categories of sheep in a Christian flock. Some are more prone to wander away than others.
The good guys: Here is a group who like to stay close to the shepherd. They love their shepherd and work on building a relationship with him. They willingly follow his instruction and guidance. These sheep recognize their master's voice and won't follow a stranger.
These sheep make mistakes and get into trouble now and then, but they manage to bounce back. When a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) shows up, they recognize the stranger danger and run to the shepherd for help.
The black sheep: Black sheep can fall into two sub-categories: the rebels and the ones that don’t fit in anywhere. They always seem to be on the fringes of the group and will wander off, sometimes willfully.
The rebels pretend that they are following the shepherd, but they really go their own way. The next thing they know, they are stuck in a bush, or falling down a black hole.
The black sheep that don’t fit in are not sure if they want to follow the shepherd or not. They wander off to other pastures and forget their own resting place (Jeremiah 50:6-7). They get lured away by other shepherds who really don’t care about them and will abandon them when trouble comes.
The shy and self-conscious: Some of the sheep have trouble relating to others. They lack self-esteem. They fear rejection, so they tend to avoid relationships. They still carry the baggage of past hurts and pain close to the surface. Their heads are always hanging low, so they don’t always look where they are going. That makes it easy for them to get lost.
These sheep are easily hurt and often skulk in isolated corners to nurse their wounds instead of turning to the shepherd for the balms that would heal them. They don’t feel worthy of drinking at the best water holes or eating the best grass. They are afraid that the shepherd would reject them as worthless or condemn them if they come to his attention. Poor creatures – they are miserable.
The angry guys: Another group of sheep avoid the flock because they are mad at the world. They resent the shepherd because they feel that he allowed them to go through some trials that they felt they did not deserve.
The other sheep avoid them. The angry sheep are often seen storming off to places where they could be in danger.
Some of these sheep end up on the fringe of the group and might wander away. Because they are not plugged in to the group or to their shepherd, they easily become lost. In their lost state, they have distorted images of the shepherd. They may think that the shepherd does not care about them and won’t bother looking for them. Or maybe the sheep think that the shepherd will reject them because of their shameful past. Or maybe they are angry with the shepherd because they suffered injustice and hurt while under his care.
The good shepherd
Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd (John 10:1-16). He loves his sheep so much that he would lay down his life for the sheep.
God puts his angels, probably sheep dogs in this case, around the sheep to keep them safe.
God meets our needs, even in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). He carries the young in his arms and keeps pregnant sheep close (Isaiah 40:11).
Jesus is also full of compassion for people who do not know him as well as His own sheep. He sees them as sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:35-36, Mark 6:34).
The good news
The good news is that God pursues us, no what category applies to us. He wants us in the fold where He can take care of us. God loves us and like a shepherd, wants to scoop us up in his arms and carry us home.
© 2014 Carola Finch