One afternoon I sat in a stuffy high school classroom and listened to the drone of the teacher’s voice. I was drifting off to sleep when I heard something that piqued my interest.
“If an enemy wanted to destroy our government and freedoms, they would take the American Flag and cut it in pieces and give everyone a tiny piece.” I sat up and stared at the teacher. I didn’t understand.
I was too shy to ask questions so I puzzled over the idea. It remained an enigma when I left the classroom, and often over the years I have thought about the idea in wonderment. How could they destroy the country by cutting up the flag and giving everyone a piece?
Finally, yesterday in church, I understood it, as I read again the parable of the lost sheep found in Matthew 18:12-13.
“How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
“And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.”
Being raised with cattlemen, I didn’t grow up with sheep roaming around, so I didn’t quite understand the concept of a sheepfold, but I studied and learned a sheepfold in ancient times was a high-walled enclosure, where the sheep were kept at night. The tops of the walls were covered with thorns so thieves and wolves could not climb the wall and jump down among the sheep. The only entrance to a sheepfold was the gate, and the shepherd slept in the gateway at night, and if necessary he would give his life for the sheep.
A shepherd was concerned about his sheep because they were his livelihood, providing food and clothing for his family. The shepherd loved his sheep and called them by name, and the sheep responded to his voice. That kind of relationship is priceless and becomes a wonderful symbol of our relationship to Jesus Christ, who is our good shepherd.
By contrast, shepherds or sheepherders in the Southwest are different. They herd their sheep with sheep dogs, which bark and nip at the sheep to herd them into a tight-knit group for the night. The sheepherder often walks behind or beside the herd, taking no thought of the relationship. It is always a master-slave relationship.
Though the shepherding methods are different, both techniques are designed to keep the sheep together for safety from wild animals and thieves who would destroy the flock.
Now what does all this sheep-talk have to do with America and cutting up the flag?
Notice the good shepherd left the ninety and nine sheep in the sheepfold and went in search of the one who had gone astray. He didn’t shake up the ninety and nine and preach to them about how they should be tolerant and treat the lost sheep with extra care.
“Let him do his own thing, and you sheep need to accept whatever choices he makes. If he wants to go out at night in the wilderness to experiment with wolf hide-and-seek, that is his privilege. Perhaps, when he returns, he can teach us something about the culture of the wolves. Just because someone is different, doesn’t make him or her bad. If we, as sheep, are tolerant and nonjudgmental, even the wolves will come around to our way of thinking.”
The shepherd was not concerned about diversity; he was concerned about the safety found in unity, and he simply brought the sheep back to the fold and rejoiced because the lost was found. He put the wandering sheep back in the fold, even if the individuality of the sheep was lost in the masses.
What about the flag? America was founded on the principles of unity. Individual states came together under one government. The American people were strong because they were unified. An individual stick can easily be broken, but a bundle of sticks tied together are indomitable.
Our founding fathers held certain “inalienable rights” to be “self evident,” and they made the presumption that all men were created equal. Notice, they used the words “created equal”, not “have the right to be equal”. Equality is a state of being. It is something that happens in the soul of a human being. In other words, a child comes with certain rights and privileges preprogrammed into them. Inequality happens as children grow and mature and pursue their happiness. They make choices that change their circumstances. Some choose to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and some choose to complain about how they are mistreated. Others choose to leave the sheepfold and find themselves in the wilderness. Inner-equality never changes because it is God-given. All of God’s children have the right to pursue happiness, but there is no guarantee that happiness will result, no matter how hard they search. Happiness depends on the values people espouse, the principles they live by and the choices they make.
Outer-equality was never meant to be static because it depends on choices. The rich become rich because of the choices they make. The educated become educated because they choose to become educated. Sure, calamity touches all of us at times. We lose our home, we become disabled or lose our family. In those moments, we can choose to stay in the depths of despair or we can choose to climb out. That is the point where all men are created equal. They have the right to make choices.
The flag? In our society today, we are hypersensitive to the individual and have lost touch with the masses. We took the Ten Commandments out of the schools because one individual left the sheepfold and started to complain loud and long. Other sheep listened and followed. Sheep do that, you know! If one sheep jumps off the cliff, they whole flock will follow suit. We made a law and down came the commandments. We took prayer out of school because one sheep bleated. Now one sheep says, “It’s a BAAAD idea to say, ‘In God we trust.’” Another agrees, “BAAAD!” Another sheep says it’s BAAAAD to say a prayer at a sporting event. Three of four sheep agree BAAAAD! BAAAAD! BAAAAD! Soon prayer, and the Christian beliefs of the masses, give way to the values of the lost sheep who are playing hide-and-seek with the wolves!
Gradually the American value system and unity, held in such high esteem by our founding fathers, is cut in pieces and distributed to special-interest groups.
We live by the adage: The sheep who bleats the loudest wins! We have become a nation of diverse cultures and interests instead of Americans united under a common goal. We are systematically clipping up the American flag, one Christian moral principle at a time, and giving the pieces away to those who have no concept that wolves are wolves and they will never become sheep, no matter how nice we are to them.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of moral masters.”
There are two ways to herd sheep. One style is where the sheep learn to recognize and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. He loves them and leads them beside the “still waters,” and grassy pastures of peace. The sheep hear his voice and find themselves secure in the sheepfold at night when the wolves are prowling outside. The other type of herding is where sheep dogs nip at the heels of the sheep and force them into a secure fold for the night. The sheep may be safe from the wolves, but there is no love between the sheep and dogs.
Samuel Adams said, “The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.”
In other words, if we follow the Good Shepherd’s voice to become a virtuous people, we will be able to govern ourselves and will find security in the sheepfold. If we choose to abandon the voice of the Good Shepherd, we will become the wards of sheep dogs, who care nothing for the sheep, and who is to say that one day these distant cousins to wolves will not show their true colors and turn on the sheep? PD