Recently, I was watching a movie and in the movie the pastor made a joke about the term sheep having a double meaning when referring to Christians. In the movie, the pastor was hinting at how there were those in the church that were opposed to changes he was bringing by blindly holding on to personal traditions that were not spiritual and quite possibly no one could explain why things were done that way in the first place.
This made me start to think. Of all the animals God could have compared us with, why did He choose a sheep? Was it simply because it would resonate with those who were shepherds or was there more to it?
In today’s political landscape the term sheep if often used to describe someone who follows a group or ideology blindly. A sheep in this sense is someone who does not think for themselves and has a lack of imagination and will follow whatever is popular at the time.
I am pretty sure that this is not what God intended when He called His children sheep. However, it seems to be the case today, that many Christians are acting just like this and have become sheep to the world around them. So much so, that a faith-based movie even makes a joke about it.
Too many of those inside the church today are following blindly and unfortunately, they may be following bad shepherds. This type of “sheep” mentality is what creates a culture inside churches that cause us to hold on to our own traditions and treat them as Holy Ordinances. We take the words of unqualified leaders as gospel without ever checking the Word to see if their teaching matches up. This type of “sheep” mentality will eventually lead all the “sheep” to slaughter.
Now that I have gotten past what I believe God did not mean by calling us sheep, let’s look at some things that I believe He did mean.
There is a common misconception that sheep are stupid animals. This is not the case. They actually rank on par with cattle when it comes to intelligence.
A 2017 article from BBC.com had this quote:
“Sheep are actually surprisingly intelligent, with impressive memory and recognition skills. They build friendships, stick up for one another in fights, and feel sad when their friends are sent to slaughter. They are also on of the most destructive creatures on the planet.”
A study from the University of California showed that sheep develop strong friendships and even take up for weaker sheep in fights. (1993)
These are all very interesting facts about sheep and are all qualities that could describe the Christian Church.
One of the biggest traits of sheep is that they will follow one another especially if the one leading is trusted. A shepherd must earn that position with the sheep, he cannot just show up on day one and start leading the sheep. One of the major reasons that sheep stick together is for protection. Imagine that, Jesus using an animal that bands together for protection as an example for His followers. Jesus knew that we would be facing an enemy who was ready to devour us so in calling us sheep He was calling us to stick together for our own safety and protection.
Another trait that is connected to the desire to band together is that sheep will follow one another and even follow trusted friends. Shepherds use this instinct to gain trust with the sheep by feeding them as they are leading them where they want them to go. However, if the shepherd does not feed them or stops feeding them, then the sheep will catch on and no longer respond to the shepherd. So as Christians, we must be like sheep and make sure that we are being fed along the way. If you are not being fed, then you may need to consider the shepherd you are following. Are you following your own desires? Are you following someone who is following their own desires? Are you following the comforts of this world? Or, are you following Christ and those who are truly following Him?
This next point, I found to be very applicable to the life of a Christian-
Sheep will try to maintain a safe distance known as a flight distance between themselves and others. The more comfortable the sheep is then the smaller this distance is. However, when danger presents itself this distance increases to a point in which the sheep feel safe. Look at that as a Christian: The more comfortable we get the more we let our guard down. This is not an invitation to avoid the world, but it is a caution to keep your guard up at all times. If we get too comfortable with the sin in the world, then it is only a matter of time before it becomes the sin in our own lives.
Here is the bottom line: It is possible to be a Christian and not have a negative “sheep” mentality. I believe that in order to do this we must ask ourselves some rather difficult questions.
- Why Do I Believe What I Believe?
This may be the hardest question for a Christian to ask themselves. In this you must consider a few things. Do you believe what you believe because you were raised to believe that way? Do you believe because others believe? Or, do you believe because of the power of Jesus Christ in your life? I could (and possibly will) write an entire blog just about this question alone.
- What Changed in My Life After I Accepted Jesus?
Becoming a Christian should be transformational. The world should be able to see the change in us. So, as a Christian, ask yourself, what changed.
- Am I following God or my own comfort?
What desires are you chasing? Are you chasing worldly fame and fortune? Are you only after worldly blessings and trying to see what God can do for you instead of how He can use you to serve others?
Certain breeds of sheep have wool that will grow forever. (Imagine a Christian who never stopped growing).
Sheep have 320 degrees of peripheral vison. Due to their pupils they can almost see all the way around themselves.