Wandering Sheep

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:10-14

When we left off last time, Jesus was using a little child as an illustration of the greatest citizen of the Kingdom of heaven; in this passage, the “little one” transitions into the metaphor of sheep which represents someone in the Kingdom. Verse 10 is the transitional verse; we must not disdain or “despise” one of these “little ones”.

What this means is that we must never have an attitude that would devalue anyone, for they are precious, sacred really, in God’s sight. The reason given is that they have an angel in heaven with direct access to the Father. Unfortunately, this concept isn’t developed here into a “doctrine” and we are left to figure out exactly what Jesus was referring to, and the result is that there are many ideas on this subject. The old Jewish tradition has a complex doctrine on angels; angels are directly associated with the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, angels are associated with individual churches in Revelation 2-3, and are referred to as “ministering spirits” by the author of Hebrews. This particular verse (18:10) is the one cited by those who believe in the concept of “guardian angels”. However you might view this, one thing is certainly clear; if we devalue our brother or sister, our action will come to the attention of the Father in heaven.

Jesus goes on in the remaining verses to underscore this using the metaphor of a shepherd and a wandering sheep. In the parable, a sheep wanders off from the flock, and the shepherd leaves the flock to find the lost sheep. When he finds the sheep he is filled with joy for the lost sheep, having more joy over finding the lost sheep than he does for the remainder that didn’t wander off.  The message is clear enough; God does not want a single one of His children to perish, and He is concerned with even the least of His children. If we are the cause of another to fall away or wander from the “flock” God will not be amused.

On a practical level, there is quite a lot for us to think about here, in fact, there is some sober reflection that we should engage in on this subject. Do we treat our brother or sister as sacred? Are we attentive when they are hurting? Do we demand that others agree with us on every issue? Do we pass judgment on the circumstances of others as a means to avoid reaching out to them?

I suppose that we can add quite a few questions to this list of things we should ask ourselves, but the bottom line is: Do we treat others as God’s sacred “little ones”?

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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15 Responses to Wandering Sheep

  1. salomeesaw says:

    Lovely and true post!
    – S.SAW xo

  2. daylerogers says:

    There’s something about treating others as more important than ourselves that’s a real sticking point. What you’ve said is a great reminder of how we need to see each other. How we need to consider each other. When did it become so hard to be a cheerleader for His church?

    • Don Merritt says:

      That’s a great question! I think that we all need to carefully consider these things, not just once, but on a continual basis simply because they are counter-initive, and it’s easy to slip off the path.

  3. This is a good meditation. God has been asking me to allow Him to sanctify my opinions. This is definitely an area I am going to have to consider as I move in to 2016.

  4. trotter387 says:

    Nice post – Jesus use of the metaphorical shepherd and the role of the Angels in behalf of his servants sits well for each of us because it attests to the concern the Father has for the individual, remember his earlier words that “not one hair” would go unnoticed. SO if we are responsible for the pain another experiences due to our lack of care drastic action is required. Here Jesus uses the hyperbole of the Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna to emphasize our need to act because the consequences will be terminal. The next section about the gift at the altar is explaining the lengths we need to go to.
    The fundamental point has to be that if we know another is a follower of Christ and no matter how imperfect they are do we accept they can stray or be hurt and we just have to look away? If we do we need to ask if we are really Christlike.
    Enjoyed the read and checking the point on Jewish tradition about Angels which goes beyond what is written in the scripture, but we know from Job chapter 1 and 2 that they are extremely interested in our wellbeing. – even Satan is

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  7. Don, I think it’s important to consider who are “God’s little ones?” Just as was asked of Jesus, “Who are our neighbors?, they are not simply our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus’ response to the “neighbor” questions was his parable on The Good Samaritan. We have to remember we must treat at sacred ALL of God’s children. He didn’t just create Christians. We must create everyone with dignity, compassion, love and grace.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Susan, I quite agree with your larger point that we must treat all people with respect and so forth… however, in this particular passage, Jesus is speaking of our brothers and sisters in the faith (contextually speaking).

  8. Okay, now I’m caught up. Sheesh, I missed a lot the last couple of days! Thanks for keeping me on track and in context. 🙂

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