The movie American Sniper starring Bradley Cooper details the life of Iraqi War veteran and Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle. Chris was the deadliest sniper in American history and went by the nickname, “Legend.” In one of the early scenes in the movie, Chris Kyle’s father explains to the young Chris and his brother that there are three types of people in the world: sheep, who are the majority of people going about their daily lives and minding their own business; wolves, who prey on the sheep; and sheepdogs, who protect the sheep by fighting off the wolves.
It is a great analogy and has really resonated with members of both the military and law enforcement communities all over the world. If you have ever worked in either one of those areas of public service, you quickly recognize how apt the comparisons are. There really are ravenous wolves on the prowl, and the majority of people are defenseless against them.
Thankfully, we have sheepdogs in the form of soldiers and police officers to stand up to the wolves, to fight back, and to protect us from their schemes.
- Who are the wolves in this analogy? Have you ever encountered wolves in your life?
- Who are the sheepdogs? Are you grateful for their service? Have you told them so lately?
- Are there any wolves that threaten us that aren’t so obvious? What about disease? Are doctors a type of sheepdog? What about cyber attacks, cyber bullies, or cyber scams? Who protects us from those things? Can teachers be a type of sheepdog, protecting us from ignorance?
When I first heard that analogy, I thought about David’s description of himself working as a shepherd in the Old Testament. When Saul questions his ability to stand against Goliath, David replies:
“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37 NIV)
It is clear that sheepdogs and shepherds alike are in the business of protecting sheep against predators—in whatever form those predators take.
In today’s passage in John 10:1-21, we see Christ refer to Himself as the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd protects the sheep from danger, unlike a hired hand who flees at the first sign of trouble. Furthermore, the sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice and follow him, whereas they will not follow a stranger. Ironically, the passage ends with some people defending Jesus while others claimed He was crazy. Clearly, some of the listeners had recognized the shepherd’s voice while others had not!
- What are some of the dangers from which Christ protects us?
- Of those dangers, which is the most important: physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual dangers?
- When a soldier on the other side of the world is doing his job well, we are often unaware of the threats from which we’ve been shielded. Is it possible that God protects us daily from dangers that we are not even aware of? What might be an example? Could unexpected changes in plans be a means God uses to protect us from hidden dangers?
A good shepherd does more than just defend sheep from danger. He leads them to good pastures and still waters, ensures they get adequate rest, and may even select appropriate mates.
- How active are the sheep in all that is going on in their care? If the shepherd leads them to good grass, don’t they still have to eat it?
- What if they reject the things the shepherd has provided—who suffers?
- Have you ever rejected something God has provided? Did you suffer as a result?
- What if a sheep wanders away from the shepherd and the rest of the flock, can that sheep suffer harm as well?
- Will a good shepherd go and seek after that sheep?
- Have you ever wandered away from God in certain areas of your life? Did God bring you back around? Did you suffer harm in the process?
Christ is the Good Shepherd. He protects us and provides for us.
When we wander outside of His protection or reject the things He has provided for us, we suffer harm. Nonetheless, He loves us still. He’ll come and find us and nurse us back to health, even though the process is often painful.
NOTE: This post is adapted from my Life’s Big Questions Series, which encourages readers to examine all of life’s questions in the light of Scripture. Whether used for personal devotions, as family discussion guides, or in a study group, this series provides an invaluable resource for enhancing your spiritual walk.