Gerald Bray: The love of a shepherd for his sheep

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“God is love. Everything we know about him teaches us that, and every encounter we have with him expresses it. God’s love for us is deep and all- embracing, but it is not the warmhearted sentimentality that often goes by the name of love today. The love God has for us is like the love of a shepherd for his sheep, as the Bible often reminds us. Sometimes the shepherd can guide his sheep simply by speaking to them and, ideally, that is all that should be needed. But sheep are often slow to respond, and then the shepherd has to nudge them along with his staff. Sometimes he has to grapple with them forcibly and insist that they follow him when they would rather go their own erratic way. But however hard it is for the shepherd to keep his flocks in order, he never abandons them. As the psalmist put it, ‘You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ The rod and the staff are the shepherd’s instruments of discipline. The sheep may resent them and try to resist their force, but they know that in the end they must go where their shepherd is leading them. As Jesus said, ‘The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’ He is the Good Shepherd, who loved his sheep so much that he gave his life for them. However many have gone astray, we have his assurance that not one of them will be lost.”

– Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, p. 17

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