You *Are* the Black Sheep.Posted: June 21, 2011
The term black sheep is a familiar one.
Apparently every family has at least one. Oftentimes, the black sheep is the middle kid (full disclosure: I’m a middle kid).
And it’s kind of a bad thing.
The kinds of things that mark someone as a black sheep vary. But when it comes down to it, it means: “You don’t fit in because there’s something wrong with you.” Mama Sheep and Papa Sheep had four lovely white sheep… and then came Bobby Black Sheep. Sigh.
Sheep are one of those nice, neat and tidy Biblical images. Jesus is the Lamb of God. David was a shepherd. God is the Good Shepherd. Pastors sometimes refer to their congregations as “the flock.” We’re sheep. So on and so forth. The visuals accompanying all these sheep were white sheep: white-sheep illustrations, white-sheep flannelgrams, white-sheep stickers, white-sheep posters. So, we can say Bible-sheep are white sheep.
And being the black sheep among a bunch of white sheep is kind of bad because that means you stick out like a sore thumb. The thing about being a sheep is that you’re supposed to work as a unit and go along with the others. You follow directions, and you behave and look like the other sheep. It’s about blending in.
If you’re a black sheep, you’re in big trouble right from the get-go. You are just different and there’s nothing you can do about it. Basically, Black Sheep are loners, outsiders, and not a part of the larger group.
This feeling of being different and tainted sometimes makes people afraid to join “the flock” on Sundays. Church People have this reputation for being “good.” They’re the white sheep. Black sheep who go to church feel like they have to put on a nice white overcoat to try to fit in, and hope nobody whispers about how their real wool is showing.
But let’s be honest with one another: We’re all Black Sheep.
None of us stick out like sore thumbs, because we’re all sore thumbs.
This is good news.
The thing about people is we’re not perfect, and we need one another.
We were built to share our struggles and our problems with other people, not necessarily because these other people are perfect and have all the answers, but because these people know what struggles and problems are, simply because they have them, too.
The sooner we realize this, the better we connect and work as a group. When we pretend we’re perfect, and try our hardest not to show our true selves to others, and when the church tries to promote a holier-than-thou kind of image, we’re only hurting ourselves.
(This Post is the fourth installment in a series inspired by the book How People Grow.)