Goats Posing Like They're On A Rap Album CoverIn Matthew 25, Jesus describes two types of followers and labels them the sheep and the goats. He welcomes one group and rejects the other. Of course, the point of this passage is that to be a true follower of Christ, one must treat others with extravagant compassion and mercy. This is a noble and righteous lesson for all believers to learn.

How many times, however, has the church itself taken too narrow a view of who belongs and who does not? By ostracizing, oppressing or alienating certain people, the church fails to uphold the standard of love that God has set before it. This not only harms those who are left out but also delivers a detrimental blow to the institution itself. It is past time for the church as a whole to embrace those whom it has historically dismissed as the proverbial goats.

They Don’t Compromise Their Identity

Sheep are herd animals. They thrive by following the crowd and being agreeable. Goats, on the other hand, are independent. While it is easy to view them as unnecessarily contrary, this is not the case. They just value their own judgment and don’t always go along with the herd just to keep peace. They don't always look like everyone else or do what you expect them to do.

The church would do well to do away with the concept of who it considers to be a normal believer. For example, no members should have to pretend they are straight, cisgender, conservative or submissive to be full participants in the community. Those who disagree with the perceived majority should be given the same consideration. Every congregation benefits from having members who are not easily scared off by opposing opinions. The church needs people who stand up for what is right even if it’s not the most convenient or popular thing to do. People who are willing to do so keep the church that is lucky enough to have them as members from becoming complacent.

They Work Hard Behind the Scenes

Both sheep and goats are useful animals to have around. Sheep eat grass and provide wool. Goat hair can be used as clothing fibers as well, and these animals will eat almost anything in sight and can clear all the grass, twigs and brush out of the way so that the landowner can create a new pathway or develop the land.

Every church thrives on the members who do all the behind-the-scenes work. The people who often get credit for serving the church are those who are visible during services. They preach or sing or play an instrument. Those in leadership roles often have their names printed in bulletins, newsletters or other paperwork for all to see. The church would not survive, however, without the countless volunteer hours of those who clean, prepare meals and contribute to the various ministries that make up the bulk of its community outreach.

They Know How To Embrace Joy

Looking at a pasture of sheep can be a serene experience. They are peaceful, happy to stand in the shade and graze all day. It's hard to imagine goats standing still for long periods of time. They are constantly running, jumping, butting heads and playing around. They don't let anything stop them from having fun.

Joy is essential to the life of the church. There is, of course, a place for reverence, but having people who cannot hide their excitement is infectious. It makes services more fun and it attracts visitors and new members. It's important not to dampen the lively spirits of those who make your church a happier place to be.

Compassion for the hungry, poor, sick and imprisoned is a fundamental tenet of faith. The church should also be faithful to include those who may not look like everyone else and those who think and act outside the box.

Category: Religion

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