Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Which Shepherd?

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for [the shepherd], and the sheep hear his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”  Gospel of John 10:3-5

What is most disturbing about the 2016 presidential race is not the unusually harsh rhetoric or the “Twitter wars” or even the juvenile name-calling.  What is most profoundly disturbing are the many Christians who rabidly claim one candidate or another *or* the many more Christians who gleefully slander the opposing candidate with misinformation, half-baked information, or downright false information, all the while feeling perfectly justified while doing so.

Even this, however, is not nearly as disturbing as the profound silence from the Church universal.  Oh, we hear plenty from churches (little “c”) and various denominations, but the Church (big “C”) does not speak boldly with a prophetic voice on behalf of the Only One who can save, the Only One who can truly shepherd a people.  Churches are speaking to specific social issues (for or against), but few are truly speaking on behalf of The Great Shepherd Himself.

There is a key component of Jesus’ discourse in John’s Gospel we Christians would do well to pay closer attention to, and that is this grossly misunderstood statement: “They [the sheep] will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers”. 

Christians may have convinced themselves they more clearly recognize the voice of the Shepherd; but if Christians and churches (again, little “c”) are doing more speaking for a particular candidate than they are for The Great Shepherd, which is truly “the stranger”?  Too many are so diligently following one candidate or the other that it seems clear (at a glance, at least) whom is being followed.  Sadly, it isn’t Jesus they are hearing and responding to.  Rather, in our public political discourse, Jesus Himself appears to be “the stranger” from whom these are running.

This is not to say Christian citizens should not vote their own consciences or ask hard questions and demand reasonable answers from their chosen candidates.  Indeed we all must, but this isn’t about exercising responsible civic duty.  This is entirely about what it means to be disciples of Christ, members of the Body of Christ in which Christ Jesus alone is the Head, the Holy Church united not in foreign or domestic public policy but united in doctrine, in purpose, and in mission to share the Gospel of The Lord and make disciples who are equipped to make disciples themselves.  If we are not fully devoted to Christ, we are something less than Christian.

St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28).  If this same apostle were to write a letter to the Church in America, surely he would also state “there is neither Republican nor Democrat … for you are all [supposed to be] one in Christ, not in Trump nor in Clinton …”

This is also not about whether one is “saved”; it is entirely about whether one is “faithful” … and to whom we are being faithful.  Publicly slandering anyone is not faithfulness; it is foolishness.  The only “foolishness” Christians must be privy to and engaged with is the “foolishness of the Cross”, (1 Corinthians 1:18).  For all the talk about those who are “perishing”, it may well be the churches (maybe even the Church) perishing under the weight of its own disobedience and faithlessness.

It is a safe bet The Lord has not ordained anyone with such filthy mouths and deceptive practices to “shepherd” the Church in the United States.  We have but one Shepherd who has already given all He had to give in order to lead us to blessedness and safety and security and prosperity.  Hear Him before hearing others, and soon come to know who the real “stranger” is and who the real “Shepherd” is; for anything less than Life” (John 14:6) is death.

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