The “Urgent Call” and the Parable of the Good Shepherd

If and as we are members of the Ekklēsía of Christ’s obedient disciples, which Jesus refers to figuratively as a flock of sheep in His Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18), then we respond to urgent calls from the inwardly known Christ, which (if we abide in Him and He in us, John 15:4) we will recognize as from Him even though they may outwardly come to us through words spoken or written by other people, “for [his sheep] know his voice, And a stranger they will not follow… for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5). This is the basis of the tradition of Quaker vocal ministry, and has been since the Quakers’ first beginnings: see Barclay’s Apology, Proposition 10, §7 (page 237 in the QHP edition).

There are other characters beside the shepherd and the sheep in the Parable of the Good Shepherd: the thief, the wolf, and the hired hand. The hired hand is an interesting case, because his interest in the welfare of the sheep coincides with the shepherd’s, and he’s most likely telling the truth when he shouts out that he sees the wolf coming. He lacks only the shepherd’s readiness to lay down his life for the sheep, or, we might say, the shepherd’s divine credentials, established by Jesus Christ when he initiated a new covenant between God and humans by laying down his life for us, a covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31, attested in Hebrews 8:6-13, sealed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), and believed in by the first Quakers because, for them, it was a matter of first-hand experience!

Quakers in the United States have been warned by human voices that the wolf is coming, but what says Christ? “Hired hands” of demonstrably good character “are encouraging Quakers throughout the country to work in their local communities, states, and the national arena to take critical actions to prevent an authoritarian takeover of our democracy,” and are warning that “some actions may become necessary later if there is another attempted coup during the next presidential election cycle,” but are they speaking for the Good Shepherd? I am not pretending to have the answer, but only framing the question. What does the Witness for God in thy heart tell thee, Friend? Is the “Urgent Call” an urgent call from Jesus Christ, or from a stranger? For if His flock includes thee, it has been given thee to know the Shepherd’s voice from the stranger’s. And it is the most important question to ask about the Urgent Call.

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