The Parable of The Sheep Dog
There once was a very “Great Man” who owned the sheep on a thousand hills (in fact, He owned the hills); and having so many flocks, He set shepherds over them. One large flock had more than 2,000 sheep and he set several shepherds over those.
The shepherds knew that the secret to an easy life was in keeping the flock content. They were easier to control that way. So they led them forth, fed them and always sang to them, saying: “Peace, peace, have no fear; all is peace and safety here.”
Then one day, a wolf drew near the edge of the fold and the shepherds saw it. Suddenly it snatched away a lamb and drew it into the woods to devour it. The rest of the sheep never realized what had happened; they only thought of the wolf as another sheep and went about their business. But the shepherds knew.
So the shepherds reasoned among themselves, saying: “We really should try to save the lamb; but if we do, there will be a fight with a great deal of noise and the whole flock will know that something is wrong. They’ll become frightened and suddenly we’ll have 2,000 scared sheep on our hands.”
Therefore, knowing that intervention would make their jobs more difficult, the shepherds decided to do nothing. So from time to time the wolf returned and another lamb was taken. The shepherds closed one eye and turned away while continuing their songs of peace — whereas in reality, peril stalked the fold.
Time passed, and “The Master” sent the shepherds a present: a Sheep Dog, whom “He” had bred for the purpose of tending sheep. The dog made the shepherds tasks easier: he cared for the sheep, found them when they went astray and licked their wounds. Everyone loved the sheep dog.
Then one day the wolf returned and the sheep dog saw it. His eyes sharpened as the wolf drew near and fell upon a lamb to carry it away. The dog ran quickly to the shepherds, barking furiously in beckoning them to come; but the shepherds only calmed the dog and bid him silence, for he was scaring the sheep with all of his noise.
Two days later, the wolf returned. Again he took a lamb, and when the sheep dog saw it he ran to the shepherds as before. Again they rebuked him and bade him silence, and the sheep dog became confused. For “The Master” had trained him both to trust the shepherds and to protect the sheep, so he was torn.
Yet again the wolf returned; but this time as it approached the fold, the sheep dog drew near to it in a crouch. As the wolf stretched out its paw for the lamb, the sheep dog suddenly attacked it, nipping its flanks so that it yelped loudly with pain. A scuffle followed with loud barks and yelps as the dog chased the wolf back into the woods.
The sheep dog returned, scratched and panting. The lamb had been saved but a tremor of fear passed through the fold: What had just happened? And in the background, the shepherds began to scowl.
As time went by and the wolf returned, the sheep dog always fought with it. Sometimes he was able to deliver the lamb but sometimes not. And through it all, everyone’s attitude was changing:
The shepherds could not stop the dog because they knew he was doing “The Master’s” work rightly. Yet they hated him because he made it harder to calm the flock, and he was making them look bad.
The sheep were better at ‘feeling’ than thinking, but if their feelings could be translated into words they would go like this: “We used to love the dog because he cared for us, found us when we went astray, and licked our wounds. But look at how he treats that other sheep now!” (The wolf, in sheep’s clothing). “See what a vicious dog he has become! So now we hate the sheep dog!”
The wolf, of course, hated the sheep dog most of all.
And the sheep dog himself began to feel isolated, lonely and miserable; no one loved him any more, everyone seemed to hate him though he was laying down his life for them daily. And even though he was hated for it, he knew that he still had to do his “Master’s” bidding.
Then one day came the finale as the sheep dog and the wolf squared off for a final battle. Tooth and nail flashed with cutting fury, hair and hide were flying, barking and yelping filled the air. The last pretense of peace was shattered as the sheep came bleating to the shepherds in fear.
Also other shepherds, who were visiting from another flock, seized the shepherds by their arms and said to them, “Do you not know a wolf when you see one? When are you going to help your sheep dog?” The shepherds were greatly ashamed and ran to the place where the wolf had been cornered. They seized it and bound it, and cast it out for ever.
Now the other shepherds congratulated them, and the sheep crowded around them with joy. They loved their shepherds who had protected them from the wolf. The sheep dog, too, came limping back to them, cut and torn from the battle and whimpering softly. But the shepherds only looked at him with disdain.
“Every wound on that animal is a testimony against us, and bandages would be like flags to proclaim it. Are we supposed to help him? No, but rather, we hope he dies!” So they ignored him, and the sheep dog limped away to lick his own wounds.
Gradually the dog recovered strength and he tried to be useful as before, but the shepherds had effectively shut him out. They would only have him chasing sticks or even chasing his tail. When the sheep dog saw this, he tucked his tail between his legs and quietly left them.
But fortunately for the sheepdog, “The Master” found him on the road and took him in, bound his wounds, and nurtured him again. And “The Master” made a note to himself that he would soon have a “Word” with those shepherds about all of this. But in the meantime he would find a new home for the sheepdog, where he might be appreciated.
Hear another parable:
A shepherd led his sheep, gently guiding those with young as he nurtured and cared for them. But then came a wolf, and he lit into it with savage fury. The same man! It was also the same reason. Because he loves the sheep.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.