Unruly Sheep Feeding Each Other

“At a point later in the year I observed a paddock with two mature ewes with rather thick necklaces of twisted hay. These stubborn ewes, I was told, had taken a disliking to one another in the field and were almost incessantly butting and harassing each other. These edible Elizabethan-style ruffs of hay were the only source of food in the pen, so if the battling ewes wanted to feed they had to get up close and nuzzle, ultimately developing a bond of familiarity” (Craeft, Alexander Langlands 73).

It’s happened more than we care to admit. We decide we don’t like someone. Then Providence pushes us together in a way that we have to rely on each other.

We come to see the “adversary” in a new light. A bond forms.

In the church, that’s community. Imperfect, sometimes ugly. Yet a community, ideally, that feeds its members.

Sheep crave community. Even if it means building a bond with an adversary. The wise shepherd puts the unruly sheep in a situation where they must feed each other so they can both return to the flock.

Craig Rogers says, “Although many think of their flocking instinct to be a sign of “dumbness,” it is in fact a community-based survival mechanism where they have learned that their strength is much greater in numbers and their comfort and survival is enhanced as a group rather than as an individual. Not a bad lesson for all of us.”

Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help.  So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm?  Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord[ais not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NABRE).

Remember that Christian who irritates you? Offer some food–figurative or real–and try to get comfortable as an ally in faith. And how about that neighbor who’s a non-believer? That’s someone outside the flock, perhaps a wounded spirit just waiting for an invitation.

Like sheep wearing food around our necks, we carry the Bread of Life with us.

The lost sheep live among and around us. And we are the only ones who can invite them to come home.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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34 Replies to “Unruly Sheep Feeding Each Other”

  1. A convicting post! There are people in my community whom I really struggle with, as they’ve revealed to me through multiple ways that they don’t think highly of me. But that doesn’t mean I have an excuse to not love them!

  2. I like how your post calls out the struggles within the Christian community: sometimes these are the hardest and most hurtful! What a powerful message that God uses our need for community to help us learn how to love past irritations and differences. Great post!

  3. Your post is very convicting. We do make snap decisions about others without giving them a chance and seeing them the way God sees them. We are supposed to love others and not judge but we fail. How many people have been driven from God/church because of how they were treated

  4. Some people are hard to love. Sometimes that is me.

    I wonder if when the New Testament refers to Christians as sheep, it isn’t a compliment, but just a statement of reality.

    btw; thanks for your post on abortion. It inspired me to write my latest column.

  5. Nancy, I’ve heard many a lesson or sermon on sheep, and the “dumb” animal thing comes up most often. So it’s refreshing to hear a little different piece to all this sheep-talk…that they thrive in community.

    1. You’re so right, Karen. I would guess that God teaches us through sheep so often because so many of His people have been shepherds–rather than just sheep are dumb. Thanks and God bless!

  6. Nancy, what powerful examples from everyday life! We are stronger together in so many ways and yes, we do need one another. May God give us the grace to see others through His eyes of mercy and grace – just as He sees us!

  7. Yes, Nancy. Being in a mega-church, there are plenty of people who rub my wife and me the wrong way, and I’m sure, vice versa. But God put us together as partners in Christ, and sometimes in specific ministries, and we try to look at it that way…sometimes unsuccessfully. Good, necessary message here. Thank you.

  8. This is a wonderful analogy. I love how God can enter into an initially tense or conflict-ridden relationship and bring friendship and cooperation from it. I pray we can open our hearts to these opportunities when they occur.

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