Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dear Pastors, Quit Feeding the Goats!

The parable of the sheep and goats (MT. 25:31-48) is not only a warning on serving Christ in the most humble, it is a lesson on where our focus should be in our parish ministry!

We know how the parable begins. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "

Most of us know how this parable ends. The sheep served the least of Jesus' brothers and sisters and did not know it but were rewarded with the promised Kingdom. The goats did not serve the least and claimed ignorance. They were were cast into the fires of hell. Too often I have heard sermons on the social aspects of this parable. But this is a parable of separation and judgement. The goats are mixed in with the sheep and there is no help for them. This is a parable of judgement. It follows two other parables on judgement.

Goats and sheep are not the same. Goats eat anything. Sheep graze on grass and clover. Goats are independent whereas sheep depend on shepherds. To put this in terms of the parable, sheep are very dependant on the Good Shepherd, goats go their own way. To bring it to the present, goats and sheep are co-mingled. The sheep in our congregations need and want a daily diet of the Word whereas the goats will eat anything including false doctrines. And Jesus knows His sheep. He also knows the goats destined for eternal damnation. But how often do we pastors try to feed both sheep and goats?

Jesus said to Peter, "Feed my sheep!" He did not say "Feed my goats." Our apostolic authority rests in feeding the elect the Word of God. Goats, the reprobate, could care less! Yet, our parishes are filled with goats desiring to have their way, not God's way! Jesus often prefaced a parable with, "The Kingdom of God is..." Not once did He say, "The Democracy of God is..." Christ the King has decided who His sheep are. They will respond to godly preaching. Goats cannot become sheep. True conversion comes about when the lost sheep are found by the Good Shepherd and brought to green pastures and still waters. I have found that true joy in ministry comes when I focus on the responses of the sheep when they hear to voice of the shepherd and not on trying to meet every demand of the goats. Jesus does not waste His time on them, why should we?