BY SUE OLAFSON
DIRECTOR, HOPE MINISTRIES
In 2005, world media covered the story of stunned Turkish shepherds watching in horror as 1,500 sheep leaped from a cliff – nearly a third of them to their deaths. Ostensibly, one suicidal sheep decided to walk off the cliff and 1,499 others followed when shepherds hired to guide them walked away to have breakfast.
A similar incident took place in France when 200 frightened sheep plunged to their deaths from a 650-ft cliff after they attempted to flee a bear in 2017.
As any good shepherd will tell you, sheep are unintelligent, cannot see very well and are essentially followers. So to have our Good Shepherd compare us to sheep is rather difficult to hear, since we are intelligent beings, see the world very clearly, and are independent.
But what we believe about ourselves and God’s truth about humanity is very different. Jesus compares us to sheep because there are more similarities than not.
Sheep aren’t so much unintelligent as they are stubborn. If they don’t want to move, they don’t. They stand independently shortly after they’re born, and appear to be strong, self-reliant creatures.
That tends to be more like us.
And in our strong, self-reliance, we often become convinced we don’t need anyone. We think and behave independently. We rigidly cling to our personal opinions and beliefs and we often disregard another way of thinking about something because it seems to threaten us. We might also find others who think the same way, shutting out other perspectives. But those perspectives can be misleading – so much so that like sheep, we can easily be led off cliffs or scattered by wolves.
Life oftentimes leads us in the wrong direction. We’re focused on work, money, or recognition. We turn our heads away from injustice. We deny racism, gender bias, and general discrimination. We convince ourselves if people are hungry, need shelter or medical help, it’s because they haven’t worked hard enough to provide it for themselves.
We don’t recognize God’s incredible grace in our own lives. Sin makes us forget and we hold others in contempt in our limited judgement.
But Jesus ensures we hear different perspectives – whether we want to or not. Sometimes it’s the person that irritates, annoys or infuriates you that is the very person of whom Jesus wants you to listen. That may be just the person we need to ensure we respond to the Good Shepherd’s call.
Shepherds are historically care takers. They ensure the common good of their flock. They protect and guide. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is always steering us in the direction of protecting and helping those who are most in need – the lonely, defenseless, and most vulnerable in our society…the poor.
Everyday people here at Saint Anne Hope Ministries respond to the Good Shepherd’s call. Jesus guides ministry volunteers to ensure they contribute their time and talent to ensure the vulnerable are fed, clothed, and provided the dignity of shelter. These volunteers carry our neighbors in need just like a shepherd carries a lost sheep. They hear Jesus’ voice and act on his invitation to help those in need.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows his sheep and his sheep know him. When we respond to his call, we can be assured he will also protect us as he guides us home.