The bible often uses imagery of a Shepherd and flocks of sheep or goats to illustrate the relationship between God and humanity and among humankind. One particular passage suggests at least three things under this paradigm:
- That God will seek after God’s lost sheep;
- That at least some of God’s flock are responsible for fouling the nourishment of others; and finally
- That God will judge in favor of those who are disadvantaged at the hands of others.
I wonder how this might apply to today’s local, national and geopolitical and religious conversations?
Originally this seemed to refer exclusively to the people of Israel. In Matthew’s gospel (MT 25:31-46) we hear Jesus reinterpret the story. Now it seems to apply not only to Israel but to all of humanity – “All the nations will be gathered before Him” (v25:32). Thus, as with much of scripture, we have multiple layers or lanes of interpretation which are simultaneously offering us truths.
One of the obvious questions to be asked is this: who is whom? Good sheep? Bad sheep? Goats? Lost sheep? Where do we locate ourselves and our group?
The tendency I often hear is to think that “our group” are the good sheep or lost sheep for whom Jesus searches. By implication, the folks who disagree with us on one or another matter of interpretation are thus the bad sheep. This is a very dangerous path to take.
At the very least, let us ask ourselves:
- Who around us is lost and in need of rescue?
- Where around us is the nourishment (water and pasture) for others being fouled by our actions?
Some time ago I proposed that we are all goats, at least according to the definition of Matthew 25:42-43. If ever you or I have seen someone in need and withheld aid, then we are goats. End of story. Unless…. God’s grace intervenes because we are at the same time lost sheep. Then, perhaps we have some hope.
The folks who are worst off are those who think they are safe, who think they are the privileged sheep when in fact they are responsible for the suffering of others. They may be more lost than others. (cf EZ 34:1-10 & MT 23)
What do you think?
Here’s the text:
Ezekiel 34: 11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out….. 17 As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?
(Click here for the full text)