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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” -- Mother Teresa


November, 2001

One day, a Federal Express driver was making his last delivery of the day. An older man wearing a baseball cap signed for the delivery. The driver looked at the other man's signature and said aloud, "'John Johnson.' My father's name was John Johnson."

The older man looked at the driver and said in an uncertain voice, "David? Is that you?" The man was the driver's father, who had abandoned him and his mother as a small child. The two men -- father and son -- were reunited in a chance encounter. And, after many years, the father knew his son.

There's an old Abbott and Costello comedy routine that goes -- in part -- like this:

Abbott: "[Your] Uncle Mike is in Alaska, isn't he?"

Costello: "Yes."

Abbott: "Nome?"

Costello: "Certainly, I know him. He's my uncle Mike, ain't he?"

Abbott: "No, you dummy, I'm talking about Nome, in Alaska."

Costello: "I'd know him anyplace."

Scientists who study genetics tell us that there is only 1/10 of 1% difference between any two people who ever lived, and only 1% difference between a human and a chimpanzee. And yet, we usually have no difficulty telling the difference between two people, and no difficulty at all telling the difference between a human and a chimp. We know our own family and friends, and we know our own kind. We seek out other like-minded individuals for friendship and companionship. Similarly, Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father . . ." (John 10:14 NIV).

If you own a dog, usually the dog will respond very differently to you than to a stranger who comes to your home. The dog knows you: It knows your scent, your walk, your appearance, your voice, and probably various other factors known only to dogs. As a result, while your dog may bark when you come home, as ours does, it will not growl or try to protect its territory from you. It knows you and it knows you have a right to be in the house. Jesus also said, ". . . his sheep follow him because they know his voice." (John 10:4b NIV). Sheep know their shepherd just as dogs know their owners. "But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." (John 10:5 NIV).

How can others tell that we know Christ, and that Christ knows us? What is there besides that 1/10 of 1% genetic difference that sets us apart from everyone else? Later in the gospel of John, Jesus told the disciples, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35 NIV). People are at least as smart as sheep. They know differences when they see them. Jesus said sheep know their shepherd by his voice. People know us by our voices as well. They know what comes out of our mouths and what doesn't. If the words that come out of our mouths express love, edify others, uplift the Holy Spirit, and are constructive to society, then others can know we are Jesus' disciples. They'll know us anywhere -- even in Alaska.

"The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. . . ."
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:2-3; 14-15 NIV.)

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Copyright © 2001 by David Phelps