Victor Chininin Buele
What a season! One of the first things I ran into today was a man saying on Instagram that he wasn’t a [you can imagine what wonderful expletive was use]ing sheep.
But I am a sheep, I said to myself. I am. And so are you, “Costco Kevin.” And so is Tison.
Why should you consider what I am sharing with you? I have seen a further escalation of our polarization—new adjectives we can use to distinguish ourselves from others, I should say. “Mask wearers” are sheep, I’ve read, since I must highlight that we don’t actually talk to one another like this. We let memes do the work. It is easier.
Living in a pluralistic society is very difficult. We have been pretending for quite some time that it isn’t, but it is. It requires listening, speaking civilly, articulating our ideas clearly, having grace when we and others aren’t clear, patience when trying to express ourselves again, grace to overlook minor offenses, and a ton of other things we do not have time to address. It requires humility, and that is not our strongest gifting in America.
On the last post, I was saying, in Spanish, that moments like this novel coronavirus pandemic crisis reveal our faith and by revealing it, this crisis clarifies the definition of our generation’s faith. It’s not that we don’t have faith. We have just as much faith as Fundamentalists of old or as the sun worshipers of the ancient Incan empire. We are sheep.
Our cultural faith is a very deep faith in ourselves. And that’s backfiring bigly. Or should we say big league? I am not sure anybody can agree to what it is that the President actually says anyway. And that’s part of the point. In the post I said that we have a tendency to make an omelet with our faith. But that doesn’t translate super well. The best analogy I can find in English is a steamroller. We want a steamroller faith.
We have a profound faith in ourselves. Blind faith. Unquestionable faith. Unshakable faith. A steamroller faith. We can and will get through this.
Sometimes we hide this faith of ours in Christianity, secularism, atheism, conservative values, morality, equality, public opinion polls, liberal values, rights. You get the point. What I’m saying is that the collective American faith is out, exposed and in shambles. We are most definitely not watching after each other. From the man behind the resolute desk watching out for his reelection to my procrastination to write this because I after all do care inordinately about what you think about me, we are all watching after ourselves. We are insufficient for this thing. We are sheep, and we keep shouting at others that we aren’t. We want what we want. We want to not wear masks. We want to wear masks. We want to be free. We want to be healthy. But before we get too far, I do see glimpses of hope here and there of some who are showing a disposition to think of others first, to think of others as more significant than themselves as Paul exhorts us to do in Philippians 2 based on the example of Jesus.
I am frankly amused that a public health matter has taken such tones. My musical brain takes me to the wonderful seats of Powell Hall in St. Louis, remembering the STL Symphony and the choir singing from Handel’s Messiah that we like sheep have gone astray, which is nothing more than Isaiah 53 put to song:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).
We are sheep. It is not a pleasant description. I think it’s good that it offends people because we need to understand that Holy Scripture does not show us in a very favorable light with such an accurate and appropriate description. Yes, we are also made in the image of God and are privileged with great worth and value because of that kind gift bestowed to us. But sheep are dumb, they follow the crowd, they do not think, their vision is fascinating and powerful yet they miss what’s right in front of their noses, they lack depth perception. Sheep are easily led astray by wolves. It matters infinitely if the sheep is being watched by a shepherd or by a thief:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, 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. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. – John 10:1-15
Sheep find it easy to make mediators for themselves to hide the difficulty of life. Don’t. Don’t swallow whole what your mediator of choice gives to you. The research on masks is not straightforward, the research on COVID-19 is all over the place, government officers have been tripping all over it and making contradicting and contradictory claims and decisions. We simply don’t know. It may be that wearing a mask is a greater danger than not wearing it. Perhaps, perhaps not. I have followed the evidence closely from many sources, not just from a central mediator. I have made choices for my family and for myself. I trust in God and in His wisdom. Some Christians will think I am living in fear. Some Christians will think I am too liberal or too lose.
We want to have somebody to tell us what to do and to have that match perfectly with what we want to do. That is what going astray like sheep means.
It matters infinitely who our shepherd is. All man shepherds will ultimately fail us. Trump, scientists, pastors, talking heads, politicians, governors, the media, those who say not to be the media but are, WND, CNN, Fox. They will all fail us.
Here is what I long for. I long for the gospel to sweep over our sick land and give us a renewal, a fresh start, the end of our sad divisions. That those who have found a love for life and a desire to defend life will let that go all the way to all it’s necessary implications even if they require a death—the death of their own self-interest. That those who have found a love for what is thought of by them as holiness but is really self-righteousness will let that go all the way and let Christ transform them with a profound sense of compassion of tireless dedication to love others well, to truly love them. That those who have a passion for freedom would work and pray ceaselessly for true freedom to be found in Jesus for themselves and those they long to make free.
There is a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We can either waste this pandemic fighting over masks and rights and shooting and shouting at each other, or we can surrender, pick up our cross, and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and find true joy, a joy that does not require mediators through faith in a Shepherd that will never let us down and will truly protect us whether COVID-19 kills us or not, whether it came from a bat or from a lab, whether we see our false dilemmas and faulty logic or not, whether we look like we are right or not. In the end, we can know the One who is Right
It is grace. Turn your eyes to the Shepherd.