There are many similes and metaphors used by the world to denigrate, or put down, those of us devoted to the Lord Jesus. One of the more common terms used in recent years is to call us some form of sheep in a derogatory manner, such as “dumb sheep”, “ignorant sheep”, or “stupid sheeple.” Yes, it’s true that Christ referred to his followers as sheep, but it was in a way that spoke of us in our relationship to him as the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (1 Peter 2:25), not in a way that meant we are stupid enough to fall for every trickster and deceiver that comes along, as many assume when they use the sheep metaphors against us. This positive relationship concept of the sheep who love and are loved by the Good Shepherd really comes to life in John 10, which points out the following facts:
- Christ’s sheep only hear and heed his voice.
- Christ and his sheep are familiar with each other and he knows them by name.
- Since Christ’s sheep only hear his voice and know him by intimate fellowship, they follow him in obedience.
In John 10, we see how our shepherd is so devoted to us as his flock, that he is willing to sacrifice his life for our protection and benefit. Since we have intimate knowledge of who he is as the one who loves us and protects us, we as the sheep are discerning and wise enough to ignore, avoid, and reject the voices of strangers, thieves, and robbers who only come to steal, kill, and destroy us (John 10: 5,8,10). The shepherd has proven he is trustworthy and loving enough to be the door for us that opens up opportunities for an abundance of blessings, be they material or spiritual–especially the blessing of salvation from sin and its ultimate consequence of eternity in hell (John 10:7,9, 27-28).
We live in a time when there are a ton of voices speaking meaningless and hurtful chatter, which is why we as the spiritually-trained, spiritually-discerning sheep need to ignore them and reject them. Their voices, their words are nothing but blah, blah, blah in comparison to the loving, awe-inspiring, purposeful voice and words of the lover of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ. So why do they mock us and seek our harm by telling us wrong stuff? Because they are not part of Christ’s fold. They aren’t his sheep (John 10:26).
If they’re not his sheep, then what are they? Not only are they the strangers, thieves, and robbers of John 10, but in animal terms Matthew 10:16 says they are wolves. But Jesus in Matthew 10:16 also tells his sheep how we should conduct ourselves in their midst and its not as the weak sheeple the world thinks we are. Christ’s sheep should be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
Additionally, Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:32-46 that on judgment day there will only be two types of people–his sheep, and the world’s goats. The sheep will be at his right hand to inherit his kingdom, while the goats will be on his left hand to receive the everlasting fire that they will share with the devil and his angels.
Taking all of this into account, I think I’d much rather be the intelligent, wise sheep Christ calls me to be than a wolf or goat that the people of the world are. So the next time I’m called a sheep as an insult to my Christianity, I’ll consider the wolf or goat who said it and take it as a compliment and highlight the benefits of being a sheep.
Harry A. Gaylord