Sheep and goats

Soon after our conversion, Miki and I learnt a very important lesson – that we should never fight back when threatened, accused, or hurt by someone, even if it is a brother or sister in Christ.  We realised that, as sheep, we are not meant to defend ourselves; instead we have a Shepherd who will look after and care for us.

I remember the time when, as very young Christians, having been rejected by our family and friends because of our new faith, we found ourselves in a small community of believers – our new family! The church was still in its beginning stages and Miki and I were full of zeal, as we still are, by His grace. The call of God on our lives was very clear to us, and we were determined to go all out to serve Him. In our desire to see things done the right way, we were often outspoken and confronted issues we felt were wrong. We soon became a threat for those leading the church then, and it came to the point where we were asked to leave. This was tough as this little group of Christians were the only people we had on earth at that time. Our families did not want to have anything to do with us because we had deserted our religion; neither did our friends.  It was a very hard time for us, especially as we were so young in the faith. For us, Christianity was the greatest thing on earth, but we were discovering a side to the church we had never thought existed.

What could we do? We had no other choice but to leave.  I remember clearly how lonely we were at that time, and how many possibilities there were that came our ways and ideas that went through our minds: offers to buy a tent to go and evangelise… ideas of starting our own Ministry… joining another church… and most of all, of becoming bitter… there is no doubt it could easily have been a time of destruction for us if we had not kept our hearts pure!

In those days, as I was seeking the Lord about the whole situation, I remember clearly how Jesus, through His Spirit, comforted me and showed me that we did not have to worry for we had a shepherd. I came to understand that some sheep are more adventurous than others and venture out further on the mountains. They often face danger but if anything happens to them, He, the shepherd, will deliver them.  I also understood that the difference between sheep and goats is that one has horns to defend himself, while the other has no natural weapon to do so. Instead, He has a shepherd. I, therefore, realised that we should not try to defend ourselves, or do anything as a result of what had happened, for He had not called us to take our lives into our own hands and defend ourselves like goats, but instead to be like sheep and trust in Him, our Shepherd.

Another thing I came to understand then was that the church is where it is and is in no way perfect, so we would doubtless get hurt along the way!  When we were, we should forgive and move on.  He was the one who would bring justice within the flock and judge one sheep from another. The important thing was that He would take care of us, His sheep, and bind up our injuries, strengthen, and heal us, as described in Ezekiel 34, (a scripture that I did not know at that time).

I shared all this with Miki and, even though both of us knew that something had to happen and that we could not stay all by ourselves forever, we chose to be still and wait for the Lord Himself to lead us into what He had planned for us.   We did not want to rush into making a decision and acting in the flesh.  Funnily enough, not long after, the same brothers and sisters who had asked us to leave came and begged us to come back to the church…

As I was reading that chapter in Ezekiel today, I was reminded of this particular situation and was so grateful that by using this small illustration, the Lord was able to protect us from becoming bitter and wanting to retaliate because of the injustice we had suffered.  One of the greatest lessons we learnt during that time was one of forgiveness: how, as born again Christians, we are called to forgive in every situation, and not to dwell on the past and things that have happened to us that may have hurt us. That our brothers and sisters are not perfect, and that we are to have a heart of grace for them and must not entertain unforgiveness in our hearts. He wants us to be free to live in the present, and not to be bound to our past.

I am so grateful that this small episode in our lives was a platform for us to grow, and that Miki and I encouraged each other to forgive, and not to allow our hearts to harden during that time. As He did for Joseph, God used the bad intended against us, for our good! And it was a great victory over all that could have happened if we had allowed bitterness into our hearts and had grown hard towards the brothers and sisters who had hurt us. One thing is certain, if that had been the case, we would have been unable to serve the Lord the way we are today, and would have been miserable and bound by our past and unforgiveness! What a lesson for us all!

Over the years we have served the Lord, we have seen many brothers and sisters become bitter as a result of situations they have been through, that they were never able to forgive and release. As a result they have stopped moving forward and have become imprisoned, trying to prove their point and avenge themselves, and even getting other people to join them in their ‘fight’ for justice! How sad!  Men and women, who could have been serving the Lord wholeheartedly today – free and fulfilled despite the situations they have to face. Yet, we all have the same Bible, the same Lord, and the same faith! And Jesus did instruct us clearly to forgive as He has forgiven us… and warned us that unless we forgive our brother, He won’t be able to forgive us! Especially, as there is always the possibility in it all, that we are looking at the speck in our brothers’ eyes without considering the log in our own.  This is why the Lord keeps saying that we must walk humbly before Him and not set ourselves up as judges in His house!

Furthermore, by harbouring resentment in their hearts and having others join them in their desire for revenge, they often cause reproach and division among Christians and hurt the body of Christ. As it is said in Proverbs 17 v 9: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends”! Moreover, didn’t Jesus’ leave us with a commandment, which is to love one another?  That love that the famous chapter 13 of 1 Cor is all about…  And how can we ignore the warning of John, in 1 John 1 v 9 – 11?

Therefore, let us stand in fear and trembling before the God we serve, remembering, that God is God, and that He has not called any of us to take justice into our own hands in His house. He is the just judge and will bring justice in His own time and way.

As the Psalmist says in Psalms 9 v 21 “… we are but men…”  Brothers and sisters, may we never forget that we are men… mere men!