A couple of weeks ago I got into a long chat with a Chinese girl I'd just met who had recently become a Christian. She started asking me about how I'd become a Christian and I briefly mentioned the fact that I'd gone to Sunday School and she jumped on that instantly as to her it was a wildly foreign concept.
"Wow! What's that like? Did you really think you were a sheep?!"
Turned out that she was referring to that bit of the Bible with Jesus the good Shepherd and us the sheep. "After 26 years" she said to me "I find it hard to get used to the idea that I am just a sheep". The image really struck her in a way that it never had me before. I explained to her that I'd grown up with it, made sheep out of cotton wool and pritt stick so often that it was just normal, it was just stories that I'd been told as a child, absorbed and never questioned. I suddenly realised that it's hardly flattering being compared to a sheep. They just seem to mindlessly follow. I do not know much about it but I did google "sheep behaviour" and this is what it came up with.
And yes this photo is of adorable Jersey cows not sheep, I couldn't resist putting this photos up. But you get the general idea. Herd instinct yada yada...
But it was the more the concept behind it that she found difficult. And I realised that in practice I found the being a sheep thing and being shepherded by Jesus probably as hard as she did - il s'agit de letting someone else lead you and take control of your life.
The other night I started thinking about that bit in the Bible again and I wasn't struck so much by the image of being a sheep as the idea of Jesus as our Shepherd.
Becoming one of his flock doesn't mean becoming a stupid, mindless, blind follower (poor sheep!) It doesn't reduce us to something less than human. We are what we are, human beings with intelligence and free-will and creativity and personality. I think that bit about the sheep says more about who Jesus is than about who we are. If we're sheep, that makes the Shepherd - Jesus - so much more intelligent, so much more knowledgable, so much better able to fend for us than we are. And then there's that aspect of tender care.
When I think of it like that. This strikes me all the more. If you were a farmer, or a shepherd, orif you have or have had pets, would you die for an animal under your care?! And then there's the fact that he did that by becoming one of us too! Mental!
Oh dear, I hope I'm not offending too many sheep by this post!