11 Mar Return to Relationship – Words of Grace Blog – March 11, 2022
I wonder if Jesus’ teaching on the good shepherd in John 10 seems relevant to today’s church. With all the challenges we are facing culturally, politically, and theologically, the image of a shepherd holding a furry little lamb doesn’t appear to hold much by way of instruction for now or hope for the future. That’s probably because we haven’t really read the passage.
John 10 includes a shepherd and his sheep, but also thieves and murderers. The shepherd provides protection because there is real danger to the sheep. The voice of the shepherd does bring comfort, but also keeps the sheep from following a stranger who will abandon them to wolves.
The good shepherd analogy shows us the relationship that Jesus Christ has with his people, those who follow him in this world. The context is the world of danger and competing voices that threaten Christ’s people. As the shepherd, Jesus has done the bloody work of redemption on the cross, gives a clear call to follow him, and guards and guides his people through the dangerous terrain of life in a fallen world.
Christ’s followers, the sheep, learn to discern his voice. They live in the security of the supervision of Christ the shepherd, yet they are called to follow him actively and attentively.
The shepherd-sheep relationship of Jesus and his church does not communicate an escape from the reality of this world. It is the reality that keeps us spiritually sane and sustained in a world gone mad. Christians can’t set aside “relationship with Jesus” to deal with the more “relevant issues of the day”. To do so would be to miss the nature of relationship with Jesus completely. We are the sheep of his pasture not for the purpose of hiding from hardship, but to be led through the thickets, twists, and turns of this world in a way that is faithful to Christ and testifies to his goodness in the world.
My sense is that we’ve sentimentalized the shepherd-sheep relationship of Jesus and his people. That means we view relationship with Jesus as unrelated to reality. Relationship with Jesus is then relegated to small group talk and quiet times, and the issues of the day are approached without him or his voice to guide us.
My hope is that we return to the good shepherd teaching of Jesus and see how it speaks to the church in today’s world. We are Jesus’ sheep secured by his death. Jesus speaks today through what he has spoken. We hear his voice through all the noise. We follow him and not a stranger.
Let’s return to relationship with Jesus and from it live in the real world.
I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday.