|"The Scapegoat" (1856) by William Holman Hunt|
God is teaching me what it means to be a shepherd. I own Barbados Black Bellied Sheep. They know my voice on hearing and my appearance on sight. In fact, they have extremely keen eyesight. They watch me in the windows of my house from an acre away. They depend on me for their needs, and they let me know. For instance, they clearly signal me when it’s time to eat.
The sheep are also extremely timid. As a result, I have to be careful to be very gentle around them. I do not startle my sheep. If startled, I have seen them jump a six-foot fence in a long glide like a gazelle. If they escape my fences, I would probably never get them back because of their shyness. No, I do not startle them, I’m always careful to speak softly to them and to protect them. God knows what it means to be a shepherd.
“I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong (the butt heads) I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice” (Ezk. 34:15-16 NIV).
Correction Before Judgment
Jesus shows us this grace of shepherding when he tells us how we are to pastor the delinquent members of his flock in the church. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:12-13 NIV).
Does not Shakespeare’s words parallel that last line? Let’s see if I can remember.
PORTIA: The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown....
There are, at least, two steps of correction which must precede any judgment, Jesus teaches.
I “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
II “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
III “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.