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            I was in one of the moods- bored, tired, and not in the mood to do anything.  Exasperated with myself for not wanting to do something healthy or good for my soul, I turned on the television, flip-flopped around a few stations and landed on "The Amazing Race".  I'm not really into "reality" TV, but I was curious to see where they would be going, so I stayed with it.  On this particular episode, the convoluted goal was to decipher a phrase out of nautical flags, using the code from a compass submerged in a shark tank.  As the teams approached the "judge" (the commandant from a local marina), they breathlessly stated the phrase, hoping that they had correctly identified each flag with its matching letter.  If they did not get the words exactly, they were denied access to the next clue.  Sadly, one team failed miserably at their translation and was sent back to the flags to try again.

            In the early 80's, an educational theory called "Out-come Based Education" would have solved this poor team's problem immediately.  It proposed that if a student showed any attempt at doing work, even if it just meant showing up to class, that student should be given a passing grade for their effort.  It was a ludicrous idea, but it had some staunch supporters.  Unfortunately, the commandant did not believe that if a team got part of the phrase correct, they should receive the next clue.  Until they figured it out precisely, they were not allowed to proceed.  No out-come based education here!

            A similar idea appears among the world's religions.  It's called Universalism.  This concept accepts the belief that if a person recognizes God, in any way, shape or form, and does his or her best to please Him, that person will land in heaven once their earthly existence is over.   In this sense heaven is an inclusive place which accepts any religious practice as long as the person is sincere.

            In John 10:1-10, Jesus likens heaven to a sheepfold.  The sheepfold was an enclosure surrounded by a stone wall, about waist high, with only one opening.  The opening was just wide enough for the shepherd to lie down across it at night.  This prevented the sheep from wandering and predators from attacking the sheep.  The door was the only legitimate way in and one had to gain access through the shepherd; there was no other legal way.  Jesus said that those who entered any other way were thieves and robbers.   The way in to the sheepfold was not inclusive; it was exclusive. 

            Jesus claimed He was the door to the sheepfold.  He was the access to heaven that people were seeking.  Any other entry way was designed to "harm the sheep" rather than help them.  He adds an interesting fact about shepherding.  Shepherds lead their flocks in two ways.  They call out to the sheep as they walk.  The sheep hear their voice and follow by watching where the shepherd walks.  Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.  Sheep will not follow the voice of a stranger.  They only follow their shepherd because they know he looks out for them.

            It is clear that Jesus did not see heaven as inclusive.  No matter how sincere someone might be, if they have not come through Jesus, they have not come through a legitimate entrance.   It is our responsibility to show people the way to the Shepherd.  Knowing this passage can help us to clearly show His love for all sheep if they will heed His voice (verse 11).

Ann LeFevre                                                                                                     3/13/2011

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