Followers of Jesus are never likened to lizards or llamas, to antelopes or aardvarks. They are often, however, likened to sheep. That may seem rather insulting, but we need to remember that sheep are valuable. They can be foolish, stubborn, or easily led, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.
We who are called sheep do have the privilege of belonging to a good shepherd. Jesus says he knows his sheep and they know him. They are not mere commodities. Jesus knows them as individuals. They matter to him.
This is a reminder to those who are called under shepherds: those who care for the people of God. These people who belong to churches are not to be seen as the raw material by which some vision is to be achieved. Or as names to fill slots in a roster. Under shepherds are to love people for who they are, not just value them for the work they do.
Jesus knows us as unique individuals. He doesn’t demand we be like others. He plays no favourites: he doesn’t prefer extroverts over introverts, or progressives over conservatives. To an outsider, all sheep look pretty much alike, but the good shepherd knows their individuality. Jesus cares not just for humanity as a category, but for each and every individual in their distinctiveness.
So, we need not complain about being called sheep. The name fits. Rather we need to be thankful that we sheep have a truly good shepherd.