Let me just say that I know nothing about sheep. Although I did grow up in sheep-farming country, I didn't grow up on a sheep farm, so sheep have generally been on the other side of the hedgerow from me. Today, however, I went for a walk surrounded by sheep. And, while I was walking I noticed two things that made me think about the sheep of God's pasture.
1. Sheep are scared of people!
I was a bit surprised at this; after all, sheep are domestic animals and the particular sheep I met today were grazing on a field through which ran a public footpath. Yet, every time I got within a few metres of a sheep, it ran away. I didn't even have to get very close. Some ran, others walked away calmly; but every one of them got out of my way before I could get too close.
Now, the sheep didn't mind at all that I was in their field. I was quite welcome and they were quite content, provided that I didn't get too close. This made me think about us as Christians. Sometimes we can be quite content, even very comfortable among ourselves. We're quite happy and can even be quite welcoming to a stranger who visits a church service. We're happy if a non-Christian comes along to church. Yet, like the sheep, it seems that we can sometimes be scared of people. Rather than 'go[ing] into all the world' with the gospel, sometimes we're quite content to stay within the comforts of our own field. Rather than taking the opportunities God gives to share the Gospel, sometimes we exhibit more of the fear of man than the fear of the LORD.
The sheep today had nothing to fear from me. I simply wanted to walk along the footpath through their field. Likewise, God's sheep have nothing to fear from man. So, we shouldn't shy away from evangelism, but take every opportunity God sends our way.
2. Sheep will (try to) eat anything!
Apparently sheep do not have very discerning palates. One of the sheep I encountered today was rather unimpressed with the lush green grass surrounding him and much more interested in trying to eat the plastic label from a lemonade bottle that someone had thrown into his field. Fortunately he was frustrated in his attempts by his inability to get the label off the bottle. Unfortunately we can be a bit like that too. Although we have a plentiful supply of healthy and nutritious food in God's Word, sometimes we prefer the rubbish with which men strew our way. Like plastic labels in the sunlight, it might be shiny and interesting, but it's not good for us. We live in a day when people are trying to feed God's sheep with all sorts of rubbish. But we need to stick to the good food of the Word. We need preachers who will expound the Scriptures to us and not turn us 'aside to fables' (2 Tim 4:4).
So from my brief observation of some sheep today, those are two ways we shouldn't be like them.