I Was Wrong About Sheep
There is a scene indelibly imprinted in my memory from childhood. I watched a lamb repeatedly butt his head, nose first, into a hog-wire (a heavy gauge web) fence in an effort to escape. I said to myself, “sheep are just plain stupid”. I had this thought in part because I was also raising pigs to show at the county fair. I found pigs to be intelligent, easily trained and by showtime they could be directed with a wooden cane around the ring. On the other hand, lambs were much more difficult. So, I drew the conclusion that sheep are not very bright. I have carried this low opinion, like a chip, all my life.However, recently, I had a notion to check the data on the intelligence of sheep. I expected they would rank a little above turkeys. But to my surprise, according to scientists who measure such things, sheep are similar to dogs and pigs in their intelligence. Whoa! This changes everything. Now I must conclude that sheep are not stupid but just plain stubborn. It seems they will continue their hurtful, self -destructive behavior, even when it defies common sense.
Scriptures like “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6) take on new significance. It seems that sheep go astray not for lack of intelligence but because they want their own way. They are stubborn. All of us like sheep are not stupid but we all tend to turn to our own, often harmful way. We all tend to stray from the flock where there is security and provision. I have observed commercial size flocks in our area being moved from one pasture to another. The flock follows the shepherd with the aid of shepherd dogs who continually chase down and nip the heels of those sheep that are going astray. It seems, that at any given time, there are some that choose to take their own path.
The implications of this new -found understanding are profound. I have been guilty at times of referring to certain people as stupid, and I repent. No, they are not stupid, but they are doing stupid things. The difference is subtle but huge. It allows me to see mankind as God does, as intelligent beings, created in His image but left to themselves, choose a path that harms themselves and often others.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He wanted to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, “and you were not willing.” (see Matthew 23:37-39).
Just as the heart of God breaks to see this behavior, the hearts of those who follow Jesus, should have this compassion.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
But when I see the choices people make resulting in the destruction of lives, families, and even nations, it is tempting to become…shall I say…judgmental, contemptuous and unsympathetic. Perhaps, the chip I have carried regarding sheep, I have also carried regarding people.
“Putting on a heart of compassion” comes only by the power of the Holy Spirit to be sure, but I am trusting this new perspective will help. Also helpful are the concluding words of …but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
Praise to our merciful and compassionate Savior!
Grace to you all,
Dave Gossett, Elder and Chairman Gracepoint Church