You’ve probably heard the term “sheeple” before. Merriam-Webster defines sheeple as “people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced.” The Oxford English Dictionary says it is a derogatory term which means “people compared to sheep in being docile, foolish, or easily led.”
And while this sounds incredibly clever and even a bit funny, it shouldn’t have the negative connotation that it does. We are all sheeple. The real problem lays in who or what we call our shepherd.
We are sheep biblically.
The Bible calls us sheep multiple times in both the Old and New Testaments. And it is never in a derogatory sense. Rather, it is a clear image of how we are to see ourselves in this world.
We are dependent. We need guidance. And we need to be cared for. People are not meant to live entirely alone, independent, and far from society. We are social creatures, created and designed to live in groups.
In fact, we are seeing the results of forced isolation right now. Suicide rates are up. Depression is up. People are more aggressive than ever. And partly because of the isolation we are forced into through social distancing, group limits, and divisive politics. Families are being driven apart by opposing ideological values. And society is crumbling as a result.
No man is an island.
The famous words of John Donne go like this:
While most people think this was a poem (though Donne wrote some beautiful poetry), it actually comes from a sermon. He reminds us that we are all connected and our connection is important for our survival and wellbeing.
As Christians, this is also an important concept. We are called to the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 we are told that though we are all individual members, we are of the same body with Christ as its head. Should one member of a body be missing, the body would not be able to work as well as it could.
So what does this have to do with sheeple?
Simply, it is not a bad thing to be a sheep as so many memes and commentators would have us belief. I’ve seen both sides of an issue refer to the other side as sheeple to indicate their idiocy and inability to see the truth.
But the actual truth is even simpler. We are all sheep. We were created to be dependent on one another. And we were created to follow.
I love the imagery of being a sheep. While the world wants to twist this to seem like we are unable to think for ourselves, naive, or foolish, the Bible paints a different picture.
Instead we are a flock. We are cared for, protected, led to food and shelter. We do not need to be independent, stressed by trying to “get it all done.” Rather, we can look to our Shepherd for help in a world that can be overwhelming.
Let’s stop looking at sheep as something we pity or even detest. We must stop trying to be islands, independent of each other. Let’s stop adding unnecessary stress to our lives by trying to do it ourselves, finding our own way, and rejecting both the flock and the Shepherd.
Follow the Good Shepherd
However, make sure that the Shepherd you have chosen is the Good Shepherd. And not just another sheep trying to lead you to the wolf to be devoured.
The problem really comes when we choose to follow the wrong thing.
There is only one Shepherd that leads to safety. We are all created to be of one flock. But society has pitted us against each other. Some follow the shepherd of science. Others follow the shepherd of politics. Still others think they are following the Good Shepherd but have been led astray by wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).
Be glad to be one of the sheeple of God. And praise Him for His wisdom in creating us this way.