Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Jesus is warning us that there are a lot of competing voices out there; it was that way in the time of Jesus and it is even a bigger issue in 2020. But the warning Jesus gives is the same: we have to be able to discern these voices and find if is a voice that deserves our attention or not. Jesus calls many of these other voices, the voice of “thieves and bandits.” He tells us that our future is bleak if we follow the wrong voices.
The key to dealing with this situation is to make sure we stay close to the shepherd and his voice. For when we walk away, we get lost, and unhealthy voices will become our guide.
There is a story about a father and a son traveling together to a distant city. There were no maps and the journey was long and rough and fraught with dangers. Only the wisdom and experience of the father would get them to their destination.
Along the way, the boy grew curious. He wanted to know what was on the other side of the forest, beyond the distant ridge they were walking. So, he asked his father if he could go and investigate. He father said yes.
“But Father, how will I know whether I have wandered too far from you? What will keep me from getting lost?”
“Every few minutes,” the father said, “I will call your name and wait for you to answer. Listen for my voice, my son. When you can no longer hear me, you will know that you have gone too far. Then, turn around and return to the place where you last heard my voice."
That’s sound advice for us right now. With so much information and disinformation coming across the air waves and so much political disagreement spilling over into social media, we have to be discerning people. The definition of discernment is: “The ability to judge well.” We need to take the information we hear and truly judge where it is coming from and whether or not it is valid.
The key for us as Christians is to measure what is being said and place those statements against the words of God. Are the words we are hearing uniting or divisive? Is this particular stand, a stand our Savior would make? Is what is being said a way to unite our country or divide it? All the voices need to be measured against the call of Jesus to love, have compassion, unite people, and produce a setting of justice and mercy for all? If it doesn’t we need to reject that voice.
Discernment isn’t always easy, but it is essential for us to do right now. May our hearts, minds and souls be open to letting God’s voice lead us into a blessed future, and may our discerning hearts help others to be blessed as well.
~ God’s peace, Dan