Dogs left on their own are known to form up in wild packs to survive. Horses left alone in the wild become wild herds. Even cats abandoned can reproduce feral litters and band together for survival.
However, you never hear the scary camp story of the farmer who’s sheep wandered away from the fold but banded together with other wild sheep and are “even now out there terrorizing the country side, so don’t close your eyes tonight.. in case a crazed wild sheep…. (I’ll leave the scenes of devastation to your imagination)….ahhhhhh!” Nope. Doesn’t work. No such thing.
Domestic sheep don’t really become wild, just lost.
I wonder if this is part of the reason the Bible uses the term for sheep to describe various categories of people?
Let me introduce you to what I am afraid is a growing category of ‘sheep’.
SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD
Over twenty plus years of part time and full time work in churches (as a summer intern, youth leader, associate pastor, youth pastor, church planter and lead pastor) I have come across this growing category of people. In the recent years, I have also needed to work in construction to supplement income. On the construction site, from a world view perspective, I have met dozens of people who I would place in this category of ‘sheep’.
This growing category of sheep might be attributed to a wide variety of reasons (in following posts I am going to try and discuss some of the more common reasons) but there are some common identifying markers. Furthermore, this particular category of sheep is not simply harmless to themselves or others, but if left unchecked can have some detrimental long term affects – both to themselves, their friends, their families, churches they might be involved with and in the general culture they live.
A few common identifying makers of ‘Sheep without a Shepherd’:
Unrest- Our homes, our churches, our neighbourhoods and our countries are full of unrest. Unrest plays out in a growing discontentment with those around you. This kind of unrest soon turns to anger and acts out in attitudes and actions of hate. “I don’t like the music here.” “I am not able to worship with these people.” “I can’t stand being around them.” “I don’t trust those people”. “I can’t follow these leaders”. People who’s lives are marked by a constant and growing unrest create toxic relationships and environments. It doesn’t matter if they are on a job site, in a church, family or friendship- unrest is a powder keg just waiting for the right spark.
Offended- “It’s not my fault,” kind of offended is what I mean here. Pointing fingers, deflecting blame, and wallowing in offence. Unable to plot a course through the crap of hurt, either perceived or real, to get to the other side of reconciliation marks the broken past of most of these sheep.
Discontented- Covetousness, or envy, has been referred to as the mother of all sin. In the epistle of James you could make a case for this. Covetousness is the want for more, or something else or someone else, with the lust driven thought that if you only had this or didn’t have to put up with a current life situation – then a major problem would be solved and your life would finally make sense or be fulfilled. Covetousness breeds an “Eve” size discontentment. For more on that you should really read this excellent book, “The Envy of Eve”
Self-deceived- Like the kind of self-deceived where the husband says, “Yeah of course I know where we are.” Making himself the proof text of all things GPS. While the family is living out the realities of being lost, again. This kind of self-deceived however has greater implications then merely a few hours lost on the road.
John Bunyan personified it like this:
Ignorance: “But my heart and life agree together, and therefore my hope is well grounded.”
Christian: “Who told thee that thy heart and life agrees together?”
Ignorance: “My heart tells me so.”
Lost- You’ve seen the ‘lost’ look before. Sometimes you have even had that look. I know, I have. Searching, wandering, stopping, searching some more, looking, longing, worried, anxious, unsure, panic turned to hopelessness and clinging- these are all words that might describe the inevitable emotions we go through when we come to the conclusion we are lost.
I don’t think that the growing category of ‘Sheep without a Shepherd” is simply a North American phenomena or a recent occurrence. The roots are deeper then the sum of our present culture but our present culture seems to dramatically emphasize this emotional, mental and spiritual state – even incubates and rapidly breeds it. If you look around our world and our churches, even in our mirrors, you will see we are populated with those who have the marks of Sheep without a Shepherd.
Life has very dangerous consequences for sheep who have NO shepherd.
I’ll write more about that later this month. Until then feel free to drop a comment.
Thanks for reading,