Many people know what it is like to be a black sheep:
Many families and communities will have some black sheep: those who are ostracised and vilified because they are considered to be a disgrace. Sometimes such treatment can be justified – sometimes not. Of course being on the receiving end of this is a hard thing to go through. And according to one unofficial measurement, there seem to be quite a few of these black sheep around.
I refer to something I just encountered on the social media. While certainly not any kind of scientific study, the reaction to a recent meme I posted tells us that this is a fairly widespread issue. The meme that someone had made and I shared had a picture of one black sheep surrounded, and given a wide berth, by lots of white sheep.
The words that appeared on it said this: “Oh look, its me at the family reunion.” I was a bit surprised at how many folks responded to this, and how many said, “That’s me!” Of course I take it that the main focus of a meme like this has to do with the Rona wars. But other things can be discussed as well.
As to what we went through over the past few years, how many folks were treated as a black sheep in the family for not fully running with the narrative, and not happily agreeing to mandates, lock-downs, masks, jabs, and the like? How many were treated like dirt for daring to ask hard questions, to think for themselves, and to challenge the Big State suppression of basic human rights and liberties?
So many suffered so greatly as they were treated with contempt, not just by family members, but by friends, loved ones, society at large, and even many churches. How many, including myself, were even barred from attending the family Christmas meal? It was a very dark and ugly time indeed.
So many families were ripped apart – some perhaps permanently. So many friendships were ended. So many relationships were broken. So many folks became black sheep overnight, and so many are still being treated this way.
As I say, I really got a lot of responses when I posted this meme. This indicates that we are not talking about just a few folks here and there but so very many who were treated like outcasts, like lepers, like second-class citizens. Many are still hurting over this. Many have been devastated at what they have experienced and encountered since 2020.
But as I also suggested, it is not just the Rona that turned so many into outcasts overnight. Other things can lead to the same outcome. Simply seeking to be a faithful Christ-follower will of course also result in this. Some who have simply converted to Christ have known instant rejection and enmity from friends and family.
Of course Jesus promised us that this very thing would happen. Consider just a few passages on this matter from one chapter of one of the Gospels:
Matthew 10:16-25 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
Matthew 10:34-39 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
So it should come as no surprise if we end up becoming black sheep – if we are disliked, persecuted, rejected and hated on. That simply goes with the territory – always has been and always will be. If you are looking to always be loved and accepted by everyone, then do not consider becoming a Christian!
Some necessary qualifying remarks
It should be obvious that not every time we suffer or are disliked or are rejected or are persecuted is it because we are simply being true Christian disciples. Sometimes this happens simply because we can be real jerks! We can be smug, arrogant, overbearing, annoying, Pharisaical, overly judgmental, rude and crude, and so on.
Plainly, if you are treated like a black sheep for THOSE sorts of reasons, you probably deserved the responses that you got – you had it coming. So that is NOT what I am talking about here. Many Christians kid themselves thinking they are being persecuted and rejected for Christ’s sake when in reality they are getting that kind of treatment because they are real twits and oafs!
Of course we believers are all a bit of a mix: we are a mix of flesh and spirit, of self and Christ. So sometimes we may be rejected by loved ones and others partly for being a faithful, holy and Christlike believer and partly because we are unnecessarily putting people off. So it can be a bit of each.
We need to be careful and prayerful therefore. Do not assume every time we are rejected it is because we are such wonderful Christians. Sometimes that will be the case, but not necessarily always. We need to take regular spiritual checkups here. We need to be humble and ask God if the treatment we are getting is a case of being persecuted for righteousness sake, or because we are not properly representing our Lord.
And we need the help of others as well. Being part of a small accountability group, or having some committed Christian friends who can be honest with you is also a real help. We are all works in progress. We are all on a journey. None of us have fully arrived as yet.
Sometimes we will just need to go back to our friends and loved ones and apologise, and admit that we were the ones at fault, and not them. If we were proud or obnoxious or too insensitive or ungracious, then to mend a frayed relationship will mean we will need to take the first step and make amends. And often both sides will need to learn to forgive and forget.
Back to my main point
Having said all this, my initial point remains. Often we WILL be black sheep, whether in our own homes, or among our colleagues and associates, or even among fellow church goers. If we are seeking to do our best and to serve the Lord in the power of his Spirit, then rejection and persecution will occur.
How we deal with this may vary depending upon the situation. Obviously the ideal would be if your antagonistic family members for example finally come around, and finally see that you may have been right in doing what you did or believing what you believed.
This will not always be the case. With some friends and associates, we may just have to accept that the bridge has been broken, and some of these relationships will not be restored. That is a painful reality to face. But it does happen as we seek to be true to Christ and as we seek to stand against the various false narratives and agendas of our day,
Sometimes you just have to let some folks go, and keep them in your prayers. Some of these busted relationships may one day be restored, but others will not. This is all part of living a life of integrity, and living a life fully sold out to Christ and his mission. As always, we need prayer and discernment as to how best to proceed here.