“I will stick with You in spite of everything!”

Jesus the good shepherd, various folds in different stables, and the search for the lost sheep… The Chief Apostle recently developed this old and well-known biblical image in a surprising new way.

“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” This was the Bible text from John 10: 16 which he used for the divine service on 6 March 2022 in Linz (Austria).

Jesus Christ introduced Himself as the good shepherd. “This is how He described His work of redemption,” explained Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider. The sheep are the souls of human beings, the Chief Apostle said. His fold, the sheep who hear His voice is the “church of Christ, the souls who believe in Christ and follow Him”.

A question of proximity and distance

And then there are those souls which are still in another fold. “These are the people who do not yet believe in the Lord.” This applies both here on earth and in the beyond: “There are different folds,” the Chief Apostle said. This has nothing to do with the living conditions or the manner of death, he said. “The point here is the proximity to or the distance from God.”

“Holy Communion, water baptism, and baptism with the Spirit define our distance to God; without these sacraments the distance to God remains greater.” However, many people have never even heard of Jesus Christ. They cannot believe in Jesus Christ because they don’t even know of Him. Are these people very far from God?”

No, because what matters for God are people’s decisions: “He has given them a conscience. Every human being, even if they don’t believe in God at all, can know in their heart of hearts—or at least have a vague idea—what God really wants. If you have chosen the good, you are closer to God than those who have chosen evil.”

Jesus loves them all

No matter how different the people in the different folds may be: “Jesus loves them all with the same love! Even if they are so far away, so evil, so horrible, He makes no difference. This is beyond our comprehension, but it is a fact.” However, “those who follow the Lord Jesus, obey Him, and love Him can experience God’s love in a special way”.

“Jesus loves them all, He wants to call them all into His kingdom. But it is He who decides when He will call them,” the Chief Apostle emphasised. “Some He calls here on earth, others He calls in the beyond.” Important is: “God’s call has nothing to do with the state of the soul,” the Chief Apostle said and referred to the biblical examples of Saul and Zacchaeus and the thief on the cross.

“We cannot call people, not here on earth or in the beyond. But we can make sure that this call is audible.” And how does that work? “Simply by making sure that our neighbour feels God’s love—through us.”

He never disappoints

This is especially true of the lost sheep, of which Jesus spoke another time. “Some have strayed from the fold of Christ because their love for God grew cold within them and they were no longer interested.” This appeal is addressed to them: “We still love you, we miss you.” Especially in times of crisis, be it the coronavirus pandemic or war: with a heart full of peace and confidence “we can show what Jesus can give us”.

In connection with the lost sheep, Jesus also mentioned the “little ones”. These are those who do not have a strong faith, the Chief Apostle explained. “And then they were disappointed, and they lost their trust in God.” The call goes out to them: “We made a mistake. We’re sorry, do come back!”

“Maybe we are the lost sheep, dear brother, dear sister, because we have distanced ourselves from the Lord or have distanced ourselves from the congregation,” Chief Apostle Schneider appealed to the congregation. “Jesus would like to lead you into His kingdom. Don’t leave Him because of human imperfections. Jesus will not disappoint you. He loves you.” It is worthwhile to say to the Lord: “I will stick with You in spite of everything.”

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Andreas Rother