If there’s anything the past year or so has shown us, it is that we humans are often such conformists. Time after time we have seen how people have made their decisions–or chosen their “side”–by what their crowd is doing. Whether that has involved the pandemic, politics, social protest or just about anything on social media, it seems that many people look around to see what everyone else is doing before they decide anything for themselves. But we must remember that as followers of Jesus, we are called to be different, to “no longer be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans 12:2)
I think one of the reasons why the apostle Paul wrote that was because he understood that it is part of our nature to try to follow the crowd. Social scientists have discovered that reality for a while. And in recent years, marketers and merchandisers–those who are trying to sell us stuff–have found that as well. Customers find safety in numbers. We tend to judge a restaurant or recreational activity–and even a church–by how many other people are there. If there’s a crowd, it must be good. I read of one man in Utah who bought several used cars and lined them up in front of his store. His business increased significantly.
More than a hundred years ago, the Dutch philosopher Soren Kierkegaard warned that “the age of the crowd” was upon us. In such an age, said Kierkegaard, people would not think of deciding anything for themselves. They would look around and see what others were doing and just behave like them. Like sheep, just following the flock.
A television documentary a few years back showed a lot about the behavior of sheep–and perhaps humans too. One scene was a packing house where sheep were slaughtered. The sheep had to walk from their large pen up a narrow ramp and then turn right. In order to get the sheep to move up the ramp, a “Judas goat,” as he was called, was trained to lead the sheep up the ramp to their death.
The goat was placed among the sheep and then walked confidently to the ramp as the nervous sheep watched. After the goat got about five feet up the ramp, he stopped and confidently looked around at the other sheep, who then began to follow. Near the top of the ramp the goat turned left, as a gate was opened only for him and then closed. The sheep, however, continued up the ramp and turned right, to their death.
“My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me,” Jesus, once said. “I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)
My prayer for you is that in the age of the crowd, you will be faithful to only follow the Good Shepherd, who loved you enough to lay down His life for His sheep. Trust His leadership for your life, even if it means going against the flow of the crowd. It may be hard, but it will always be worth it.
I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.