It is interesting that the scriptures often refer to us as the flock of God. Sheep are so different than bovines, wolves, rats, and other types of creatures. I know of few people other than Christians who would take being called a sheep as a compliment. Most would take it as an insult. They might be filled with pride at being called a lion, a bear, or something like that, but not a sheep. Why is that?
Perhaps it has something to do with the inherent nature of sheep. Sheep are not powerful. They are not fantastic leaders. In fact, sheep have little defense against predators and usually require a lot of care in order to stay healthy. They do not have a good sense of direction. I remember watching a video clip of a group of sheep running around. Unlike a stampede of cattle than run in a single direction, the sheep seemed to run aimlessly in circles. Sheep don't appear to be as smart or cunning as other animals. They are easy prey to wolves and other carnivores. No wonder people take it as an insult to be called sheep.
Yet that is one of the prevailing images for God's people in scripture. Our Lord is the chief shepherd and we are his sheep. Let's just park on that image for awhile. What does that say about us? What does it reveal about the kind of attitudes we are to have? We are not as cunning, powerful, self-sustaining, or independent as our culture would lead us to believe. We need guidance, leadership, and nurture. As sheep, we humbly accept this nurture and guidance. As sheep, we follow our shepherd. Unlike goats, we do not push, force, or shove in order to get "our" way, but follow the lead of the good shepherd who has already went ahead of us and laid down the path for us to follow. Our shepherd have been entrusted by the Holy Spirit with leading the flock down that path.
Then there are the wolves. Wolves who are self-centered and interested only in how they can fill themselves up even at the expense of the sheep do not even belong in the flock. Jesus warned of those wolves who come in sheep's clothing. It is interested that most of the time in scripture, false prophets are characterized as self-serving folks with inflated egos and loud mouths who are interested only in pumping themselves up at the expense of the flock and at the expense of the mission of God. This is how they devour the flock.
No wonder God never intended for us to live as sheep without a shepherd! Sheep need protection from goats and especially from wolves. It is not mob rule, which is why Paul in writing to Timothy and Titus set down some standards for spiritual leadership. When it comes to leadership, the playing field is not equal. You would not entrust the running of the country to children, but to experienced, mature adults of character. How much more so with God's flock.
As sheep, our leaders are to be mature men of character and ability. As sheep, we are to be…. well, sheep…