For those reading this blog who don’t know me personally (or maybe you know me personally but you don’t know this about me), I carry a firearm most every place I can do so legally (work is about the only exception). Much ink has been spilled on the topic of guns, the Second Amendment, gun control, etc.; and debating the merits of this lifestyle is not my point here. But what I want you to understand is why I carry. Simply put, I am a sheepdog.
For those who may not be familiar with the term in this context, I shall endeavor to explain.
A sheepdog is a person (man or woman) who takes seriously the God-given responsibility of protecting themselves, their loved ones, and others. We protect our families, our children, and those in our charge (the sheep—and I don’t use this term pejoratively) from the wolves—those evil, criminal minded individuals in the world who wish to do us harm. There are different sheepdogs in our society: law enforcement officers and members of the military are the primary ones. I am a veteran, and no longer on active duty. But my role and responsibility as a sheepdog did not cease when I took off the uniform. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be military or LEO to be a sheepdog--anyone can be one. But to be a sheepdog requires a certain mentality. While I won’t go into that here, there is an excerpt from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book, “On Combat”, called On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs that does an excellent job of explaining this mindset. Which brings me to the real point of this article.
Today in church, the pastor gave a very interesting sermon on Discipleship (if you’re so inclined, the sermon will be posted on our church’s Vimeo page). Herein, he discussed Matthew 9. where Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the workers and the harvest.
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’.” (Matthew 9:35–38, ESV).
The New Testament is filled with analogies comparing Christ as a shepherd and his followers as sheep. In John’s gospel, we read Jesus describing himself as the “good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep.” He goes on to talk about the “hired hand” who is not a shepherd and “sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (John 10:11-13).
I really like this analogy, and I think it has application for the Christian case maker/ apologist.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes, “We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5, NET). In today’s world, the greatest threats to Christianity are the false, often arrogant, ideas that are raised up against God. These ideas may at first seem reasonable. They may be couched in the language of science*. These ideas may come from those in positions of power or authority. But in the final analysis, they are false, misleading, and designed to tear down Christians and the Christian worldview.
In our churches today, there are many Christians who, like sheep, are in danger of being eaten by “wolves.” These wolves take the form of skeptics or atheist, those who practice false religions, Satan, or simply the world in general. Through the spreading of false ideas, the wolves are always seeking to devour Christ’s sheep. The sheep are often innocently going about their business; oblivious to the threat the wolves pose. Enter the sheepdog. The sheepdog is part of the flock. He or she obeys the shepherd. The sheepdog plays an important role in protecting the flock. He or she helps herd the sheep, keeping them from straying. The apologist, as a sheepdog, aids the shepherd, Christ, in protecting his flock from those who wish to destroy it; primarily through false and misleading ideas.
I believe my responsibility as a sheepdog not only involves the physical safety of my family, friends, and others but also involves their spiritual safety as well. This, I believe, is the greatest thing I can do as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.
*Please don’t misunderstand my point here; I am not “anti-science.” I am not opposed to science as a source of knowledge; but I am opposed to “scientism”, the belief that science is the most "authoritative" worldview or the most valuable part of human learning - to the exclusion of other viewpoints.