Easter 2 Misercordias Domini
St. John 10:11-16
15 April 2018
- Hard truth: We are all sheep
In our society to call people sheep is to insult them. It accuses them of passive herd behavior. It means that they are easily controlled by any powerful figure. It is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. The implication is that the only reason these people believe or do anything is because the crowd is doing it.
This is the explanation given for everything that disagreement. It is the reason that either the republicans or the democrats are so dumb. They can’t help it. They are just sheep and they don’t think. It is the reason given for those who believe in evolution and those who don’t, for those who want gun control and those who don’t, and on down the line.
Repent. There is an arrogance here worthy of Satan himself.
None of us gathered here is above peer pressure. Our fashion choices, music selections, and our favorite restaurants give us away. We like what the crowd likes. We are constantly taking our cues from our culture and considering the opinions of others. Anyone who thinks he can rise above it, including Karl Marx and Machivelli, are deluded.
You are not above it. You are not a sheepdog or a wolf. You don’t have special knowledge or abilities. You aren’t superior to those who disagree with you or to the culture at large. You are a man of your times, of your people, a man of unclean lips who dwells among a people of unclean lips. Give up your adolescent fantasies. You aren’t the hero. You are a sheep among sheep and the Bible commands that we love our neighbor sheep as ourselves. That means we can’t demonize them. We can’t call them stupid or assume the worst about their opinions and how they came to them. Stop judging those who disagree with you.
- Good News: Jesus lays down His life for sheep
If you would be saved, you must be a sheep. Jesus lays down His life for those too weak to face the devil or save themselves. He calls us sheep without derision. He speaks with affection. To be a sheep of the Good Shepherd means that you belong to Him and He will protect you, guide you, and provided for you.
- Speaking the Truth in Love
It is easy to get some wrong ideas about being a sheep but any idea that makes us proud ought to be resisted. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Humility is necessary for faith for faith begins with the fear of the Lord and the recognition that we need a Savior. But that is not say that God desires us to be blindly led. We are to judge doctrine.
Sometimes we have misheard St. Paul’s admonition that we are to speak the truth in love as though that meant to tell the truth in the kindest and most gentle way possible. So if I needed to tell you that you were fired because you were constantly late for work and couldn’t be trusted to actually work while at your job, I would have to do everything that I could to soften the blow and protect your feelings. The idea then is that while sometimes we need to hear hard facts we also have the right to kindness.
That is not false. We should be gentle and kind to one another, but that is nor really what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 4. He writes that God gave the Office of the Holy Ministry for the purpose that we would “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
Though we are sheep, and as newborn babes long for the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel, we are not remain children but are to grow and mature in the faith. This is not so that we would stop being cruel to one another but rather so that we would not be tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, human cunning, and craftiness. Rather we, the sheep, are to speak the truth in love. What truth? The truth of the knowledge of the Son. That is we are to speak true doctrine to one another for the sake of love. Love here is about gentleness and kindness but rather is about eternal concerns.