Shepherds or Butchers?
Someone once said, I heard this once in a talk, how a person was making this point, and they said, “If you go to the Middle East, very often you’ll see a shepherd sitting on an animal, a donkey, and the shepherd will be riding, and he’ll have his little bell, and he’ll have his voice, and the sheep, docilely, will be following, obediently and orderly after the shepherd. So then the speaker was making the point: You see, the shepherd may have a crook, a staff, where he can pull back one of the sheep who’s straying, but he doesn’t beat the sheep. He doesn’t use that staff to hurt them. He uses it to protect them, and to protect them even against wolves and so on, as we’ll see in a second, where the imagery continues. But there is no compulsion. There’s no beating. He doesn’t push them into the pen. They follow him freely.
Well, when this man who’s giving this talk was making this point, a person in the audience raised a hand and said, “Hey, wait a minute! I was once in that part of the world and I saw a man forcing, compelling the sheep, the flock, into the pen, pushing them in, beating them in, whacking them across the rear end, making them to go in. What you’re saying isn’t true!”
And then the speaker said, “Wait a minute. What you saw wasn’t a shepherd. It was the butcher.” I’ll never forget that. The butcher beats the sheep into the pen and then butchers them. The shepherd doesn’t butcher them. He doesn’t beat them. He calls them by name, and they follow him freely. They follow him voluntarily. They are happy to be members of his flock and to follow him.
(As told by Fr. Thomas Hopko)