the bible’s a funny thing. and so is following that guy jesus.
at best, they’re frustrating. at worst, they’re maddening. even illogical. counterintuitive.
you see, in scripture, we’re referred to as sheep. basically, mindless followers that roam without proper self defense or the ability to find the way on our own. we just sorta hang out with the flock and go where the shepherd leads.
we’re sitting ducks. but, you know, in the sheepish kind of way. (a shmuck?)
quite frankly, sheep should be frightened.
but the bible’s a funny thing.
i often ask people what they think the most common phrase in the bible is. most people have no idea, naturally, but occasionally, people will guess “verily something or other” or “something with lord”. i await the surprised look on their face when i tell them the most common phrase in scripture is “fear not” or some derivation (“do not be afraid”). well over 300 times (that’s almost 5 times per book), we’re told not to fear.
i repeat things to my children often. awhile back, we went through the process of potty-training lucy. while she did well and learned quickly, several times throughout the day, i’d have to say to lucy, “if you need to pee or poop, go to the potty” or “we only use the potty to go pee or poop.” what would happen if i didn’t tell this to lucy? well, you don’t wanna know the full details, but let’s just say we had to say goodbye to a few pairs of underwear and come to the realization that a couple sheets and blankets would never be the same. more to the point, though, we knew lucy wouldn’t go to the potty without our constant reminder.
lucy’s a sheep.
on her own, she would have left our home looking like mr. hankey and his flock of minions stormed its gates. with guidance from the shepherd, she was able to learn and change.
the shepherd knows the sheep are afraid and over and over and over, he tells his flock to not be afraid.
not only does the shepherd know the sheep are afraid but he knows that fear is the most crippling way to live. in fact, living in fear isn’t living at all.
a couple days ago, i blogged about the new law in louisiana that allows concealed weapons in church. more broadly speaking, it was a challenge to the “sheepdog philosophy” (pdf link) and my assertion that violence returned with violence violates the way of jesus.
but it isn’t just about violence and concealed weapons. those are symptoms. the underlying issue is fear.
simply put: people who carry concealed weapons for the purpose of self defense (or the defense of others) are driven by fear.
now, that statement just sent many concealed carriers into an internal frenzy of rage and denial (which is particularly frightening because they have guns…), so let me briefly unpack it. i don’t think that most or all of concealed carriers walk about trembling and bug-eyed, just waiting for johnny rapist to jump out of every bush. yes, i realize that you would tell me that you do it to feel empowered and to be a prepared, dutiful “sheepdog”. i’m sure you’d tell me other things, too. but all those things are surface-level. beneath the surface—at the core—is fear. if you assumed you were safe or protected by a good shepherd, why would you carry around a weapon for protection? fear, of course, drives concealed carrying.
sure, maybe you want to protect your family. in other words, you are fearful that your family is going to be hurt. yes, you might want to be a beacon of hope and safety in the event that a crazed gunman kicks down the doors of your church and begins firing. in other words, you are fearful that people are going to be hurt.
yes, these things seem to be somewhat reasonable.
but, for those who follow in the way of jesus—those who are sheep following the shepherd—know that over 300 times in scripture that we’re told to fear not. we’re told to live lives that are above fear. a life that is sheepish. that follows the good shepherd, trusting that he is our protection.
will jesus stop a bullet? probably not. will jesus eradicate your community of rapists and crazy people? probably not. but will he enable you to live free of a crippling spirit of fear? absolutely. if we so choose to actually be his sheep. and live like sheep—not sheepdogs.
fear ruins lives. it causes white flight. it causes people to avoid certain parts of town. it causes people to hide weapons on their body. it causes racism and division. it causes the dissolution of could-be friendships. it causes both petty fighting and global wars.
and that’s why the bible says over 300 times to fear not.
put the weapons down. live beyond fear. face the day with a boldness that assumes that our lives are guided and protected by the good shepherd. it seems illogical. silly. counterintuitive.
and it is.
why? because following jesus, living as a sheep and not a sheepdog, is a funny thing.