Many of us will be familiar with the parable of the good shepherd. You know, the parable where the shepherd has one hundred sheep, but only ninety-nine come home with him one night. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep alone to go out and look for the one lost sheep. Remember that one?
I remember thinking how silly it is to leave ninety-nine of something just to find one more. I mean, if I had a stack of one hundred twenties on a picnic table, and one blew away, I’d probably not leave the stack of ninety-nine to chase after the one. Don’t get me wrong—I’d be pretty miffed that even one got away, but I don’t think I’d place the remaining ninety-nine in jeopardy just to chase after the one.
Nevertheless, the good shepherd does this very reckless thing—he leaves ninety-nine sheep on their own—and we all get a little misty thinking about that one little sheep and who it could be. Who knows, maybe you were out there on your own, and one day your good shepherd came and rescued you from whatever thicket you found your way into.
Almost every time we hear this story we focus on the plight of the one little lost sheep, but we do not consider what is taking place with the ninety-nine. Recently, I heard another pastor retell this parable with a focus on the ninety-nine that were left behind. Why did the good shepherd leave the ninety-nine on their own to find the one? How could he be sure the ninety-nine would be safe? Valid questions I think.
The ninety-nine were safe…because they were together. The herd has many eyes, and this vision would make it harder for the enemy to launch a successful attack. The ninety-nine were safe with or without the shepherd around, because they had one another. The one out there on his own—that sheep was not safe. And the shepherd knew that.
Our spiritual life is never more safe than it is when we are connected to the body of Christ. The opposite is also true—our spiritual lives are never more in danger than when we are disconnected to the body of Christ. The extent to which we have fellowship and spiritual friendships with other Christians is directly proportional to the spiritual covering around us that will guard us against attacks from the evil one. The extent to which we operate on our own and without the surrounding of our brothers and sisters in Christ is directly proportional to the risk we take on every day in our spiritual lives.
Satan is known in Scripture as the deceiver, and lying is what he does best. You will be able to think of every good reason why you should disconnect with your church family and connect with other people instead. Perhaps with others you find better compatibility with your interests, or they live closer. Maybe they are nicer to you, and perhaps they don’t ask questions about the areas of your life you’d rather not talk about. Maybe they just seem safer to be around.
It’s a lie. It’s a snare that you have your neck caught in, and soon your circulation will be completely chocked off. When you give in to these lies, you become the one. And that is a dangerous place to be.
The ninety-nine—no matter how smelly, bossy, imperfect, or unappealing they might seem from time to time—they are where your real spiritual covering exists.
Connect with the ninety-nine.