Many people consider the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:11-14), a story primarily about all the wayward people who have not joined “the fold,” or the church as yet. People like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), whom Jesus sought out with an invitation that ultimately changed his life. However, if you reread the parable, it could also be referring to those of us who were once an integral part of “the fold,” yet somehow, lost our way back for one reason or another. For some of us, if we offer ourselves enough reasons, it can be easy to leave “the fold.”
Sometimes, like us, the sheep wanders far from the fold, looking for what appears to be “greener pastures.” It can be as simple as a new place for grazing that appears more advantageous, when in fact, the “greener pasture,” is as full of weeds as the pasture we left behind. From afar, we fail to notice the large patches of brown grass, dandelions, and poisonous weeds growing among, what seemed to be, lush green grass. But, after a while, we discover that it doesn't matter where we are, we can’t run from ourselves; everywhere we go, there we are.
Sometimes, like us, the sheep sees something more interesting, not a greener pasture, but an exciting distraction. These distractions are mere illusions that prompt us to believe we see something much more interesting than our Shepherd, Jesus Christ. While we are distracted, we lose sight of the fold, stubbornly ignoring The Shepherd when He calls us to come back home. These distractions are usually things we highly value, things worthy of leading us astray. It can be the excitement of a new lifestyle where fame, money, friends, power or prestige takes precedence. A lifestyle where we have decided Jesus does not fit in; so we go, a few feet at a time, until we realize we are so far from The Shepherd, we can’t seem to find our way back. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice.” But now, we have to admit, we have difficulty hearing the still small Voice of God calling us to come home.
Sometimes, the fold is just too crowded; there are so many sheep that, a few sheep may get too close to us, stepping on our toes—I mean—hooves. So, we leave the fold due to an unkind word; or, because of an attack from inside the confines of the corral —the one place where we least expect it. Not realizing that, we are all still a work in progress. Even Christians can be vicious to each other. We can reenact the malicious behavior and arrogant attitudes found in the world, transferring them to our brothers and sisters within the fold. All because we have become so accustom to our actions outside the church, we simply forget to practice what we preach, forcing people away. —Yet, Jesus offers forgiveness saying, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Each person must discover for themselves the importance of being within "the fold." It teaches us more about ourselves in regard to our sensitivities, attitudes, relationships, and our walk with God. Our perseverance within the fold can help us to understand the complexities and duality of being both Christian and human. A complex and comprehensive life where we strive daily to become the best living sacrifice to God; though blemished and battered, in a world that openly applauds us for being our worst.
Given all the distractions, it is easy to get side-tracked; it is even easier to backslide. If you have been gone for a while, and consider yourself a little wayward, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice.” The question is, like a member of His flock, can you still hear His Voice calling out to you; or, will He have to come for you Himself? L.
Study Reference: Isaiah 44:22, Matthew 18:11-14, Luke 19:1-10
From: "The Lost Sheep." In The Master's Hands: 365 Daily Devotions for Everyday Living
Copyright © 2014 by Lavona E. Campbell
photo: H.B. Mertz/Troll's Tongue