In reporting the abuse of many young boys by their trusted priests, the media exposed an age old problem: wolves, robbers and thieves lurk in the sheepfold! And worse, they often pose as shepherds. John 10:1-18 describes the different types of people found in a sheepfold. Here’s a quick look at each one and some of their predominate traits.
Shepherds are known by their caring nature and their scars. Shepherds are found in families and groups as well as churches and Christian organizations. They fight for the sheep and protect them from the wolves. Even though they come with different personalities, they share a common concern for the welfare of the flock.
Shepherds bear the marks of spiritual battles fought to protect the sheep. Jesus showed Thomas His scars to confirm His identity (John 20:27). The Apostle Paul’s scars authenticated His ministry (Galatians 6:17). Every real shepherd at sometime faces such battles. Battles and scars come with shepherding. In the persecuted church these scars may be visible marks on the physical body. In our country the scars are more hidden because the wounds are more likely to come from slander and shunning.
Overseers or hired workers appear to be there for the sheep but are there for their “hire” as in salary, prestige, self-worth or personal needs. They withdraw from messy battles where they may get hurt. They usually don’t attack the sheep, but they don’t go out of their way to protect them either. They abandon the sheep and real shepherds when the going gets tough. They may be talented and learned, and even have some affection for the sheep, but they lack the personal character or spiritual integrity to stand against opposition. How different from a bond servant who nurtures the sheep out of love for the Good Shepherd (John 21:15-17).
Sheep need to be fed and protected. Composing the majority of the sheepfold, they tend to innocently follow other sheep or the leaders.
Wolves devour the sheep or use them to satisfy their own appetites. Like shepherds, wolves may be scarred, but not from laying down their lives for the sheep. They appear good—maybe too good to be true (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Despite their sheep or shepherd’s garb, their true nature is revealed by how they treat the sheep. Pretending to represent Christ, they wound unsuspecting sheep within the fold. Bruised and bleeding, the wounded sheep associates the injury with Christianity or worse—with God.
Ravenous wolves slip into groups you think would be safe and protected. Talented, outwardly polite, or overflowing with personality they can produce amazing ministry results, but Christ will say to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:13-23, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). They lack the hallmark of a true Christian—LOVE.
Robbers and thieves fleece the sheep. They can also destroy faith and fellowships. A robber is overt in his stealing whereas a thief, like an embezzler, is sly. When a robber steals from you, you know it. Your house is ransacked or he’s stuck a gun in your back. The embezzler may steal more, but is so clever it may be years before you wake up and realize what you have lost. Jesus used both words to describe the false prophets who enter the sheepfold.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Let’s open our eyes to the scripture’s warnings. Not everyone who holds a position of authority is there for the good of the group. Don’t ignore your spiritual radar!
On the other hand, have you been attacked for practicing integrity or for protecting the sheep? Rejoice, you’re probably a real shepherd!
On this Memorial Day we honor those who, like the Good Shepherd, showed the greatest love by laying down their lives for us. May God bless those who sacrificially serve our country.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.