“Elephants & Sheep”

Elephants & sheep

The internet encyclopedias list some of the similarities and many differences between elephants and sheep.  Both have strong social instincts and good memories.  Elephants have brains that weigh up to 11 pounds, and can identify themselves in a mirror.  They have a wide range of sounds to announce their needs and co-ordinate movements and defense.  They usually live in groups of 8 to 10 individuals but are much more independent than sheep.  They also seem to display emotions at the birth and death of those in their herd.  They will care not only for their own babies, but rally around those whose mother is hurt or dies.  Sheep also have a flock mentality and desire to be close to others in the group.  They are generally docile by nature but fear new visual objects and will run out of control when startled by noise or yelling. They have good peripheral vision but poor depth perception.  Although they have a good sense of hearing, they can wander off and get lost.  Elephants are often carefree and enjoying playing but sometimes praise or scold their offspring.

All that being said, isn’t it somewhat surprising that the Holy Spirit used the analogy of sheep instead of elephants to describe the church (flock) of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jo 10k:11 & 27)? Aside from the humor of replacing a lost baby elephant on Jesus’ shoulders, (Jo 15:4-5) there are several good reasons to compare sheep to Christians.  People tend to go astray (1 Pe 2:25) (Isa 53:6) and frequently in the opposite direction as the shepherds (Ps 119:176) (Jer 50:6).  Whereas sheep are by nature followers and docile, they cannot be driven like cattle.  Christians could learn much from sheep about staying in the safety of the flock and not drifting to the fringe where the wolves can more easily pick them off (Acts 20:28-29).

Just as sheep can produce valuable wool, the Christian is expected to produce good works for the Chief Shepherd (Eph 2:10) (Jo 9:4) (Php 2:12).  Sheep seldom fight with each other and Christians are told to, “…Live in peace with each other.” (1 Th 5:13) (Heb 12:14) Sheep need to be continually fed, as do Christians (Jo 21:15-17) (2 Ti 2:2) (Tit 2:1).  As we look at the wise instincts and behaviors of the elephants, we might be tempted to think we are more like them, but with an honest introspection, we know we are more like sheep.

                                                                –Jim Bailey