What about those “black sheep”
by Warren E. Berkley
In every family I’ve ever known or heard about, there is someone whose behavior caused grief for the rest. The innocent family members are embarrassed and may not speak openly of the “black sheep.” It carries a tone of scandal and shame. Families can be very protective of their reputation and their unity.
Let’s apply some fairness and maturity.
(1) Respect a family’s privacy. Anything scandalous can quickly become consuming viral gossip. Gossip not only isn’t helpful. It can wound, discourage and work against honest efforts to redeem. We don’t need to probe or go digging for dirt.
(2) Avoid unfairly blaming the family. We cannot assume the family caused the black sheep’s bad behavior. There is that universal presence of free will. God, for instance, was the perfect Father, yet Israel rebelled against Him (Isaiah 1). Jesus was the perfect Leader, yet Judas rejected Him. To assume that parents are always guilty of their children’s misbehavior is misinformed. (See Ezekiel 18)
(2) Understand, the “black sheep” may have an account that doesn’t fit the family’s narrative. Joseph was considered the “black sheep” of his family. His brother’s animosity led Joseph into a pit, to be retrieved by slave traders. Whatever might be said about Joseph’s actions prior to being abandoned by his brothers, their reaction wasn’t right or redeeming. Sometimes a family doesn’t know how to help or save a wayward relative or lacks the desire to do so. Rather than loving and redemptive admonition, they just apply the label and ignore the person. Rejection without remedial effort really reflects poorly on the family!
(3) If the black sheep is guilty, well, we all should know the answer. Lost sheep need a shepherd. They need THE SHEPHERD. The father of the prodigal son knew this well (Luke 15).
“All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned – everyone – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of all all,” (Isa. 53:6).
Whatever their reputed color, all sheep need the Good Shepherd. While sinners may not accept the call, we need to make certain they hear it and see in us the care we learned from the Lord.
* Origin of the expression. Non-white wool is viewed as less commercially valuable because it cannot be dyed.