Having never been part of their culture, I don’t know much about the things that motivate military people, but I came across this quote a while back that I suspect represents the attitude of a good many of them:
“It is better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep.”
According to Wikipedia, this is an Italian motto that is preserved on some broken walls memorializing the Battle of the Piave River during WWI.
I suspect that this saying also represents the attitude of a good many non-military Americans today. After all, who wants people to think they’re like sheep? According to a friend who used to raise them, sheep are incredibly stupid. Not only that, they’ve come to be known as the animal that will blindly follow anybody, anywhere. And we Americans, of course, aren’t like that. No indeed. We think for ourselves. We make our own decisions.
In some ways, this motto reminds me of a defiant two-year-old, kicking and screaming while his parent holds him close to protect him from his own foolishness; or the older child who adamantly declares, “You can’t make me!”; or the teenager who says, “I’ll make my own decisions.” In short, it’s a declaration of independence, a rebellion against submission – and a common American attitude.
But is it biblical? Well …
- The word “sheep” shows up 185 times in the NASB, and usually its not talking about furry critters
- From the 23rd Psalm The Lord is my shepherd through Isaiah 40:11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock through John 10:11 I am the good shepherd, God’s people are referred to as a flock of sheep, and Jesus as our Shepherd – over and over again
- Lost sinners are also often compared to sheep: from Jeremiah 50:6 My people have become lost sheep to Matthew 9:36 He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd to 1 Peter 2:25 For you were continually straying like sheep; and, again, there are many other similar passages.
So it occurs to me that defiantly declaring that we’re not sheep doesn’t line up very well with God’s thinking. In fact, it’s got to be classified as the sin of rebellion, leading us into divination and witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23) – which explains some of the problems in today’s American church.
The truth is that we are all sheep. We are designed that way. We all follow something or someone, no matter how much we deny it, or assert our independent thinking. The only thing in question is what or who we are following. And the only submission that leads to peace in our hearts is submission to God.
So the next time you don’t have peace, the next time that two-year-old inside of you starts kicking and fussing, ask yourself Who you’re rebelling against – and read some of these verses. Then repeat after me: I am a sheep. The Lord is my Shepherd.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.
The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.
Those who love Your law have great peace,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You.
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
For the mind set on the flesh is death,
but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.