Friday, March 11, 2005


Berean Sheep

It's fun to lampoon someone else's odd faith or silly habits. Those who buy the latest book of devotionals, followers of "Left Behind," holy rollers or the extreme conservatives.

Ah, if only one group had the truth. But Occam's Razor convinces me that all of us are wrong. There's only one real question: What does a real follower of Jesus look like? I'd bet that what we count on to mark the "spirit-filled Christian" has little in agreement with God's opinion.

Error is self-perpetuating because if anyone in our culture has learned how to think he's done it in spite of schooling. We're taught to be sheep, unquestioningly following whoever declares himself to be the Leader. "Follow me. I understand. You don't and you need me to teach you." The lesson is reinforced every time our government lies, with the lie backed up by the news reporters who are supposed to be digging into things so we can see some of the truth. Instead they work more on their hair than on their stories, and truth keeps banging on the door, begging for admittance.

If someone wants to be a really lively, dynamic follower of Jesus, how's he going to learn? There's a real spiritual smorgasbord out there, lots of tasty dishes that look beautiful but result in starvation. Empty calories. If all you grew up with is McDonald's, how in the world would you recognize real food if you found it? You'd probably spit it out.

If, by some odd chance, a person does manage to meet the Holy Spirit and really start to learn about God, what then? Everyone else thinks he's a weirdo. Categories were made for blind sheep. Real followers are one in 6.6 billion, and God wants more.

I am a sheep, living in a world of wolves. Most people have told me to adapt by becoming wolflike, but I think that's the wrong answer. What's needed is a special kind of sheep. One who knows enough to go on the lam from traditional Christianity, but landing in Jesus' arms instead of going alone into error. A sheep who will hear his Shepherd's voice quietly and persistently calling underneath the strident yammer of all the others. And then, even more radical, to go out through the gate with the real Shepherd.

Where will he lead? I don't know. I only know my story, not yours. Only God knows where you're supposed to be, not your pastor nor your friends. Nor your own ideas, which have been formed in a fallen world. We're all wrong, remember? Jesus had to die to make us right but that's just the start. We have to die daily to our own ideas of what's right.

Who would have thought of it? Only God. He wants us to be wise sheep. In our black-or-white, all-or-none world, a sheep is a ball of wool with the mind of a pea. Dumb as a box of rocks. They were bred to be that way. Human beings started with perfectly competent wild sheep and bred them into the brainless market animals they are today, just as they've done to the rest of us.

Jesus followed his Father perfectly, while being perfectly responsive to the situation around him as it was. He talks with people as they are. Healing starts only from the truth.

The Holy Spirit starts with scattered pieces of shattered souls. He patiently overcomes my resistance with honest love that finds a place in the whole for each shorn fragment. He says always the same thing: "Follow me. Learn to think and feel and live. You don't know anything about this, and I understand. I am teaching you."

And God surrounds me, holding everything even as I run. I feel his love and am able to go on another day. A balloon-sheep walking through an endless cactus garden with only God's hands to protect me, which he does so that my attention can be on things other than self-protection. I can be responsive to situations around me and shine with a light made of the Holy Spirit and my own feeble soul.

God went to a lot of effort to make and then forgive my bruised soul. He wants all of it, not just the little bit that makes it through the modern Christian filter of acceptable behavior. Jesus was the Lamb of God, but he's no sheep.

Initiated 2005 March 9 (as "What Does a Christian Look Like?", then "Sheep Following Sheep")
Completed March 11

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