The Bible often pictures God’s people as a flock of sheep. Apparently, God sees some things in common between people of faith and small wooly livestock. How are believers and sheep alike?
One point of comparison is noted by Peter. He writes to Christians, “For you were like sheep going astray. . .” (1 Peter 2:25). Sheep tend to stray from the safety of their shepherd and his flock. On their own, in the open, sheep face a variety of dangers: predators, cliffs, thieves, and so forth.
Christians also tend to stray away from the safety of the Shepherd, our Lord Jesus, and from his flock, the church. Like straying sheep, straying Christians face various threats.
The New Testament warns believers about 3 spiritual dangers. First, the devil is like a roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to devour. Second, this broken world is full of temptations that can entrap believers and shipwreck their faith. And third, the ‘flesh’ is an inner threat, sinful desires that pull us back to a destructive lifestyle of disobedience to God.
To the believers who had once strayed Peter goes on to say, “but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Of course, the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls is Jesus, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep.
Safety from the devil, the world, and the flesh is found in close communion with Christ. And Christ gathers his followers into his church like a shepherd gathers his sheep into his flock. In the flock, under the watchful eye of the shepherd, the sheep find security from every danger.
And more than protection, the sheep find provision when they are in the flock. The shepherd leads his flock to green pastures and quiet waters, the necessities and joys of a healthy and enriched life.
Our Shepherd Jesus has come so that his flock may have abundant life. Following Jesus, we find the provisions necessary for a strong faith. The Shepherd and Overseer of our souls nurtures us so that we can grow in the grace of God and enjoy his blessings to the fullest extent.
Peter’s warning against straying reminds us that a spiritual downfall often begins in subtle ways. Wandering away from the Lord is a gradual process that may go unnoticed until disaster strikes. The wandering believer is rarely alarmed and often in denial about potential dangers.
James writes to Christians, “My brothers, if one among you strays from the truth, then someone should bring him back” (James 5:19). As God’s people our highest goal is to be like Jesus, which includes seeking and restoring those who wander away. Doing so is one way that we are his hands and feet.
A wonderful old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Knowing that God’s people are prone to wander, we should faithfully seek out those who do. And if you or I happen to be the wanderer, we should be gracious when they come looking for us.
May the Good Shepherd always keep us,