On the Corner

Sheep and goats

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief -m

Have you ever been in some kind of a relationship or predicament or project or some kind of a job where you look at what you have or what’s going on, and feel some considerable discontent? After awhile, you recognize you have a problem. You let it rattle around in your mind and, ultimately, after considerable struggling, you draw a line down the middle of a page and list the good points on one side – let’s call them the “sheep” for want of a better word, and on the other side list those that seem to trigger your discontent – let’s call them the “goats.”

I don’t know why “sheep” seems to fit the positive attributes and “goats” the negative. I don’t have anything against goats, but I don’t like to hang around people who continually try to “get my goat.” They’re usually pretty self-centered, frustrating and critical. Sometimes, these same people become “scapegoats” – a victim who has frustrated so many people that he (or she) is an easy target to take the blame when something goes wrong. If people are “sheepish” they seem to hang back – and act kind of meek.

Biologists tell us that sheep and goats are closely related. They’re both from the Bovidae family. They seem, however, to have gone their separate ways some centuries back.

Okay – back to your list. One side, sheep; the other, goats. Hopefully, you will have established some kind of criteria to differentiate the attributes that are to be separated. I hope these criteria aren’t based simply on feelings. You’ve got to get your brain in gear – think. Major decisions are important. Minor ones, like where shall we go to eat, not so much.

Sometimes we need simply to work more effectively at what we have rather than make a major change. We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater just because we feel something isn’t working. I’ve known some people who give up on a career right on the edge of success just because of the way they’re feeling about someone or something. Don’t make major (or even captain) decisions solely on the basis of feeling.

What should this criteria look like? Here’s an example?

We need always to begin with a question. How about this one – a big one. What is God looking for in men and women? Wow. Could you answer that? You might just begin with some phrases taken from scripture – phrases with loaded terms, difficult if not impossible for the average person to define – phrases that communicate zilch, nothing. I believe that approach is overly simplistic.

This “big one” is not an easy question, and it could be answered in a number of ways. To be meaningful, however – it must start, not with an answer, but with the criteria to assist in making a judgment. For this question, these criteria will be based on a belief system, not evidence. Demand for evidence leads to the death of faith. It seems to me that, in this case, the criteria develops according to the manner in which God has tried to relate to mankind through the ages as recorded in his scriptural record.

These criteria relate to all of us and might be a good starting point.

First, do I have a mutual, loving relationship with God, and do I show-up? He gives us the choice whether or not that happens, but if we’re away somewhere – maybe buying lamp oil or something – and get back too late, he will be very disappointed and wonder if he even knows us.

Second, am I guided by the Holy Spirit in my desire to grow in every dimension of my life? In our ever developing maturity, love will show us the way to positive human relationships.

Third, am I willing to face my fears and take risks for him? Playing it safe is not the behavior God wants. He’s invested in us and wants us to trust him. He is looking for people with courage – courage enough to speak up and share our faith, courage enough to care for others.

Fourth, am I fair and just with those around me, and do I pursue justice for all? Justice is an extremely important word in scripture. We must seek it, and give it. We must work to eliminate any form of oppression.

Fifth, do I demonstrate acts of mercy and compassion?
We become blessed as we show mercy to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Sixth, am I humble and avoid taking myself too seriously. We need to remember that God walks before us, behind us, with us and in us. We reveal him to those around us. We need to take God seriously.

Seventh, do I love and care genuinely for others as revealed by my behavior? This involves feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, providing a room for the homeless, clothing the naked and cold, visiting the sick and imprisoned – and doing this for the lost, the last and the least among us.

Eighth, do I embrace the doctrine of reciprocity? If so, I will treat others the way I would like to be treated.

I’m sure you can add criteria to this list. Send it to me, but it needs to be based on the context of scripture. I urge you to establish your criteria and make a personal assessment concerning whether or not God would find what he is looking for in your life.

I would value your thoughts and comments.

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