In Christianity, we use the terms “flock” and “shepherd” to describe who we are in relation to Christ. We are sheep following our Good Shepherd. In the western world, when we herd animals, we typically do it from the rear of the flock. We flank the herd to the left, then to the right, until they go where we want them. We drive them. If we apply this form of “shepherding” to our religious beliefs, we may view Jesus as someone who drives us from behind. Someone from behind who has a whip in order to make us, the sheep, go in the right direction or to do the correct thing.
But in the Eastern world, where Jesus was from, shepherding takes on a whole new meaning. To be a shepherd is not one who forces from behind, but one who leads from the front. A shepherd is with his sheep 24 hours a day, leading them, letting them graze, taking them to water and looking out for predators. The shepherd does not drive from behind, but leads from the front. He knows each sheep by name, their likes and dislikes. The shepherd who leads from the front knows when one of the sheep is missing or is something feels out of place.
For years I had the western view of shepherding in my mind as I associated it to religion. Religion was something that pushed me from behind, or I was punished for doing the wrong thing. In my mind, the gates to heaven looked more like two boulders with a narrow opening between them. It was in my mind’s view that the sheep God separated as His on the Day of Judgement would have to pass through those narrow boulders. It never dawned on me that God would lead us through first and show us the way. I only pictured Him driving us from behind and chaos ensuing.
In this picture that was in my mind, I would get into heaven, but only as one of the herd. I would kinda slip in with the older sheep who were better known to have done good deeds and I would just slip on in with them. I would slip in, and there would be no reason for the shepherd to even know my name.
I was so wrong; my fears were wrong. God does know my name. In fact, He is involved in the details of my life. It is hard for me to understand how, but I know it is true. He leads me from the front, and I want to follow and go where He goes. He is a shepherd who watches over His sheep.
Now, that is not to say bad things do not happen. People try to reconcile the bad in our life by God punishing us or to teach us a lesson. I don’t believe that. What I do believe is that we live in a broken and fallen world where evil exists. This evil is out to get us at any cost, and it will heap heartache upon us.
Evil shepherds us with fear and doubt. The fruits of the Holy Spirit shepherd us with hope, joy and peace. The Father leads us from the front and goes before us.
In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable about a shepherd who has one little lost sheep. That shepherd worries over the sheep and goes out to find it. When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he puts him around his neck and carries him home.
We have all been lost at some point in our life. Some of you may be in a lost place today. If you feel lost, I want you to know that God is grieving over and worrying over you being lost. But remember, a sheep is easier to find when it bleats and asks for help more than the sheep who is quiet. And it takes time and effort on your part to come to a place of Beauty. You have to yearn for Beauty, and you get there by following the shepherd.