Sunday, October 30, 2022

Feed My Sheep


After His glorious Resurrection and before ascending again into Heaven, Jesus met with his apostles and commissioned them to take His gospel to the world. In St John 21:15-17 we read that he told Peter, "Feed my lambs," and "Feed my sheep".

We too have been called to feed the Lord's sheep in our day (see for example D&C 50:13-14). To effectively do so ourselves, it is instructive to consider how a shepherd would feed his own sheep. Does he give every sheep exactly the same food? Does he feed them all in exactly the same way? If there is a lamb that is reluctant to eat, does he mock or belittle them? Does he perhaps try to force the food down their throats, or just abandon them to fend for themselves?

I think it's clear that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would not only be supremely patient with each and every lamb, but would also know exactly what each one needs and feed each one in whatever way would be most beneficial for them. Likewise, each one of us requires spiritual nourishment at the time and in the manner that will be of most benefit to us. That means progressing a little at a time, "milk before meat" (1 Corinthians 3:2), or "line upon line" (Isaiah 28:10, 2 Nephi 28:30).

Some lambs need to be bottle fed, and aren't yet able to handle grain or grass. Likewise, those who are new to the Gospel, including children and recent converts, might rely heavily on parents and teachers to learn and grow their understanding.

As the sheep mature, they are led to safe pastures where they can graze for themselves, though their diet may occasionally be supplemented by hay, oats, and other foods for added nutrition. So can we, after they have developed their own testimonies of the Gospel, provide environments where we, along with fellow followers of Christ, can continue to learn for ourselves on a daily basis, while still receiving specialized instruction from time to time.

Finally, some sheep may not always eat when they are expected to. A caring shepherd will learn the difference between a sheep that is sick and in need of special treatment, and one who simply needs a little more time to feel hungry enough to start grazing. If there is someone in our lives who seems reluctant to receive the spiritual nourishment of the Gospel, we can  still provide them with a spiritually safe and judgement-free environment, ample opportunities to participate in and learn the gospel, and reassurance that they are loved no matter what.

The principles of the Gospel are the same for all of God's sheep. But we all benefit from personalized, one-on-one care and instruction.

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