Undershepherds, Sheep and Fences
By Lynne Yohnk
Once upon a time there was a Great Shepherd. He had to go on a long journey and so He gave charge of the sheep to seven undershepherds. The Great Shepherd had a fence for all the sheep. It was not a constraining fence. Not very constraining anyhow. It was only constraining to sheep that could just not see fit to graze in beautiful pastures. For some reason, there were always some sheep that wanted to go into the dangerous mountains or by the swift river currents, but most were content to graze in the fence put up by the Great Shepherd.
When the Great Shepherd left, he divided the sheep up for the seven undershepherds to care for.
The first undershepherd said, "I never did like this fence. It is too constraining." And so he lifted the fence for all his sheep to get out and they could come and go as they pleased.
The second undershepherd said, "I never did like how wide the fence was. It is too much work to find all the sheep that way. I will built a smaller, more constraining fence, so I don't have to work as hard and so the sheep can't jump the Great Shepherd's fence as easily."
The third undershepherd said, "The Great Shepherd knows what he is doing. I will leave things as they are."
The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh undershepherds all agreed the fence was too large and they built smaller fences in varying degrees like the second undershepherd.
Of course, all of the first undershepherds sheep were killed very quickly. This put fear into the other undershepherds but it also put a sense of self-righteousness into them. They felt very smart for having built their fences smaller than the Great Shepherds. They felt they were caring for their sheep. Now and then, a sheep would escape and go into the great beyond and be killed by a beast or the river currents. All of the undershepherds preached against the dangers of jumping the fence. Of course, the undershepherds all knew that the great danger was jumping the Great Shepherds fence and not their smaller fences, but they did it for their own convenience and because they thought it was safer. They even criticized undershepherd number three because all he required was what the Great Shepherd required and no more. They told their sheep that number three didn't really care about his sheep or he would not allow them to even get close to the edge of the fence, lest they jump. Undershepherd number three and his sheep were outcasts amongst all the sheep.
Undershepherd numbers Two, Four, Five, Six and Seven and all their sheep began to wonder whose fences were the best. None of them wanted to go into the Great Beyond and there was always a fear that that may happen, especially to the lambs. Number Five thought his was best and number Two thought his was the best and on and on it went. Of course, if they accepted each others fences, that may have been okay, but one day, number Seven said that unless everyone's fences was built EXACTLY like HIS fence that it was the SAME AS GOING INTO THE GREAT BEYOND!! Everyone was aghast that number Seven would say such a thing!! But number Seven's fence was very small. His fence was so small, that the sheep were getting quite crowded. Some of them were crowding the sides of the fence and sometimes they were pushed so that their foot went outside the fence. Then, those sheep were told that if they were going to put their foot outside the fence, that it was as if they went into the Great Beyond.
One day, a sheep from number Four jumped his number Four fence. Everyone in number Four was full of fear, but they hoped he would simply jump into one of the other accepted fences. But, as they watched and to their horror, he jumped the fence into the Great Beyond!! They watched as he frolicked and played in the sun and then was attacked by a wolf! Everyone in number Four was so afraid! The undershepherd preached and preached against jumping the fence! This happened in all the groups of sheep and soon, they were all preaching hard and strong against jumping the fence!! Pretty soon, it was hard to distinguish between jumping the Great Shepherd's fence and jumping the undershepherd's fence. Now, even a jumping of the undershepherd's fence was looked at with great fear. "No!! Don't jump the fence!" they would cry!! "Danger!! Danger outside the fence!!"
One day, after years of this, a little lamb looked outside the fence. He couldn't understand what was wrong with jumping the fence. He never saw anyone get hurt from jumping it. He also saw number Three sheep grazing outside his own fence and he began to wonder. He had to ponder this. He knew number Three sheep did not jump the fence into the Great Beyond. He knew that it was wrong to go into the Great Beyond, but he could not understand all the reasons why he should not jump the undershepherd's fence.
One day, he stuck his foot outside. Nothing happened. He decided to jump into the other "safe" fences and try them. It was all pretty much the same except for differing fence lines. He didn't understand why they all thought they were right when the fence lines differed. Then, after much thought, he decided to see what it was like to be a number Three sheep. He knew that THAT would NOT be tolerated, but he could not understand why. So, he jumped. Pandemonium broke! "The little lamb broke into undershepherd number Three!!" He was warned again and again "You are not supposed to jump the fence!!" While he was out there, he saw a sheep jump the fence into the Great Beyond. It was then he realized that it was the fence into the Great Beyond that you were supposed to avoid jumping!! He felt so free! He skipped and hopped and never knew how much room there was for grazing! Life and that more abundantly!! The Great Shepherd knew exactly where to draw the line!!
He looked back at the poor sheep constrained in the small fences and heard them pacing and warning "Don't jump the fence!" He heard them calling to him "You can come back!" And he wondered why he should want to. He wanted to go and break down all the fences put up by the undershepherds. He saw how cramped the sheep were, how they criticized one another, and how sickly they became without room to roam.
Soon, the Great Shepherd came back. He was very upset when he saw his sheep so cramped and sickly. He punished the undershepherds that were Lords over God's flocks rather than a simple undershepherd. "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move one of them with their fingers...but all their works they do to be seen of men." Matthew 23:4,5
This writing is the copyright of Lynne Yohnk and was posted with her permission. Additional articles may be viewed here. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to write. Please let her know if you appreciate her writings!
Page added February 4, 2006
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