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The Good Shepherd

IN the New Testament, Christ Jesus often talks about sheep and their shepherd to illustrate important aspects of God's care and love for man. In one place, he calls himself ``the good shepherd.'' That image of a kindly, watchful shepherd gently caring for his flock is my favorite way of picturing Jesus. Of course, it's not as if there weren't other things out there wanting to guide our thinking. We find books, systems, isms, agencies, self-help groups, for just about everything. Yet, isn't it the wisdom and love of God that we really need, rather than just another human opinion?

Today more than ever, it seems, we are like sheep who need the guidance of our ``good shepherd'' -- Christ, the divine influence that brings God's care to human thought. Jesus represented this Christ-love more fully than anyone else ever has or will. And Christ is as present and active today as then.

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Because the love of Christ actually comes from all-knowing and all-powerful God, divine Mind, it shepherds us with spiritual wisdom and love. Even the most complex issues in our lives yield when we seek guidance from the all-knowing God. As we pray, Christ lifts our thought to an understanding of what is spiritually true about us. Then, we'll know what to do in the specific circumstances.

Christ speaks to thought in terms of strong ideas of good, impulses of love, you might say. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, puts it in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness.''

One constant message of Christ is the assurance of the presence of God -- which means that man is never separated from God and His love. What Christ voices isn't vague or imprecise; it always meets the individual need at the time. It can guide, quiet, rouse, warn, or assure us. But it always speaks on the basis of God's nearness and His all-powerful love for man.

We have our part to play too, however. We need to listen wholeheartedly for the voice of Christ and act in obedience to it. Such spiritual listening isn't passive. It requires us to shut out whatever would interfere with the Christ message as we prayerfully commune with God -- as we fill our thought with the good and simple truths about man's status as God's child and wholeheartedly reach out to God's love.

Think about the example Christ Jesus has left for us. Didn't strength and confidence characterize what he did, rather than fear and mistrust? So, when it is really Christ that is guiding us, we'll feel the unmistakable presence of Christ's love, with no hint of fear or doubt. And we will always find that the voice of Christ points us only to what is right and good -- as a shepherd always protects the sheep from whatever is injurious or evil.

Christian Science adds something special here. It teaches that because the whole of man is spiritual, there's no ``part of me wants to do good, but part of me doesn't'' -- all of man's spiritual individuality is receptive to good, to Christ.

Most of us have taken some wrong turns in our lives when we've failed to recognize these facts, though, and that's why we feel we could use a shepherd to turn us back to the right path. It's as the Apostle Peter says in his First Epistle, ``For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.''

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Of course, the love of Christ is doing much more than just guiding us through some tight places in our lives. It's leading us into a surer understanding of God's ever-present love and guidance -- and there are no wrong turns on that path.

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