The Modern Sheepdog

In today’s society there are typically three (3) types of people, there are sheep, there are wolves and there are sheepdogs.

All 3Most of the people in our society are sheep, they are kind, gentle, productive souls who are truly only able to hurt each other by accident.  Occasionally they will be provoked into hurting one another under extreme circumstances, but the vast majority of these crimes are committed by a very small element of society based on the total number of citizens.

I mean no offense by calling the majority of population “sheep”, but I compare it to the pretty blue robin’s egg, or the vibrant green butterfly cocoon.  Without the firmness, rigidity and protection of these hard outer layers, the beautifulness would never be able to flourish.

If we have sheep, (the good) we must have wolves, (the evil). There are people in this world with evil in their hearts, who want nothing more than to feed on the sheep, they are the wolves. They are capable of evil deeds, they will descend on the flock without mercy, and the moment you turn your back or pretend they don’t exist, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

If you have no capacity for violence, and are a productive member of society, then you are a sheep, if you have a capacity for violence and no compassion or empathy for your fellow man, you are a wolf, but what if you have compassion and love for your fellow man, you are a productive member of society but you have developed a capacity for violence?

Then there are the sheepdogs.  The real issue with sheepdogs is they look a lot like the wolves, so the sheep tend to keep their distance.  They have fangs and a capacity for violence and do not fear the wolves. The difference however is a Sheepdog, either by design, by will or by shear understanding of their position will not and must not ever hurt a sheep.  If a sheepdog ever was to hurt the tiniest of little lambs, he must be punished and removed.

The sheepdog disturbs the sheep, he asks questions, and enforces rules and trains in ways that disturbs the lives of the sheep.  The sheep don’t always like the sheepdog because he is a constant reminder of the wolves lurking nearby.  The sheep don’t like it up to the point where the wolf shows up.  Then the entire flock expects to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

Please know there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog, it is simply a choice.  They are typically the people that are willing to work late, they are the ones who volunteer.  You can usually find them out on the perimeter sniffing the breeze, barking loudly at things that go bump in the night.

Here is how the sheep and sheepdog think differently; recently there was a horrible shooting at a certain movie theatre in Colorado.  The sheep are all thankful they were not in that theatre and had to witness the terrible things that went on there.  The sheepdogs, while praying for peace for the families that were affected, wish that they had been there, as maybe they could have made a difference.

Some people may be destined to be sheep, and others may be genetically predetermined to be wolves or sheepdogs, but I believe most people can choose which one they want to be, and I am proud to say I strive every day to provide the best protection I can to my flock.  Be a sheepdog.

The Modern Sheepdog Concept,. Interpreted by Billy Long, originally by Lt. Col Dave Grossman, US Army Special Forces (RET) as told to US Navy Special Warfare Group 10 in 1990.

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I am a Christian, a Husband and a Father, in that order. Leadership is important to me, because I see too many outside influences acting on the lives of my children, and I need support to make sure I am the most dominant influence. I appreciate your feedback and enjoy reading your input. Thanks in advance for being part of this endeavor.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • David Woods

    Profound analogy, Billy. I tend to agree that most people in the world are passive and productive, but I am not certain your comparison works so well when you say that only those who “have developed a capacity for violence” are sheepdogs, unless in that word choice you mean those who are not paralyzed by the prospect of difficulties. In that case, I heartily agree.

    However, being former military myself and now serving as a pastor, I would strive ardently to downplay my “capacity for violence.” Among other things, I once was a nuclear missile launch officer. I had no qualms about unleashing horrific violence upon innocents and aggressors alike and I did this in the name of freedom and national righteousness. I did it because I had the capacity to withstand the criticism, psychologically handle the consequences, and because it most certainly needed to be done. I was a nuclear capable sheepdog!

    Now, in the ministry, I can personally testify to the negative effects of such a “capacity for violence.” In the olden days, I would comment on the wayward tendencies of a nation, people group, or individuals and state (tongue-in-cheek), I’ve got a solution: “Sierra 31!”, one of my formerly assigned Minuteman II ICBM’s. This shortcut to my desired outcome would certainly not be the right solution for most disagreements and inappropriate behavior in the world today, yet there I was, ready to “Nuke ’em!” I think you can agree that such a capacity for violence in the ministry (or most arenas) would come across as blatantly abusive at best and absolutely, sinfully horrific, at worst.

    Our fine brother, Kevin, has watched me evolve a bit across the years and I know he can testify to my harmful ways of putting the mission above the concerns for the people, even when the mission is for the overall protection and benefit of the people. I think your analogy with sheep, wolves and sheepdogs fits closely, but I know you would agree that rather than being one nipping at the heels of “our sheep,” you and I would be better off as shepherds who knows their flock and whose flock knows them. Then, when we need to move our followers in one direction or another, we may first use our soothing voice to guide them and in rare instances, give them a nudge, or even violent yank with our staff, to get them out of immediate harm’s way.

    As I said at the outset, I probably read far to much into your analogy, but knowing my own colored past, I felt that I should share some of the darker sides of vigilant leadership. Blessings to you and Happy Thanksgiving.


    • Billy

      Thanks David, I appreciate the fact a Pastor can have that open a discussion about the topic. First of all I agree with you 100%, violence would never be my first response to anything, however I feel as though I do so others don’t. The other side of that coin is I am not afraid to do what has to be done either, and I think that is what is missing with our people in “Leadership” capacities. I am thankful for people like you and Kevin, as it gives me hope in the Lord and society as a whole. Thanks again for your kind words and your response, I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving.

      • Kevin Bowser

        This is EXACTLY the kind of dialog and exchange that I envisioned when I launched this. It is my desire to open these kinds of dialogs among folks of like minds so that they can draw inspiration from one another.

        Well done guys!

      • David Woods

        Hi Billy (and others)… Yes, I figured that I addressed the aspect of your comment that was more oriented to a last resort type of behavior. The value of a “full arsenal” (pun intended) for a leader to draw from, including more drastic/dramatic/intense (read violent) options is essential. The exasperated mother who endlessly counts “One, two, … I mean it… sit down!” without EVER getting to “three” and its consequences quickly leads to dismissal of them as a figure of authority. I do not recall which great military leader said this, but they defined War as “the management of violence.” When diplomacy fails absolutely, for the greater good, someone MUST be willing to pull the trigger and resolve the situation. Or, do you (or others) citing the passivity of Christ (if, in fact, that is a true characterization), consider any actions that result in offense to someone, to be inappropriate? Curious to hear divergent views on this issue….

  • Billy

    I have to admit, I am not as in to the word as I would like to be, so please bear with me here. I do not believe Christ to be passive, maybe I am wrong, but using a military term, since this is about Leadership, I feel he was “the tip of the spear”. I don’t think he was concerned about offending anyone, and I am not either, but I do, attempt to be socially acceptable. However, I am really only inclined to offend someone in the defense of someone I care about. This was kind of my point in speaking about having ” a capacity for violence”…I do or will because I don’t want others to have too. I guess what I am trying to say is, we chose our paths (sheepdogs and Christ) so others dont/wont have too.

    • Jamie Read

      I know I’m a little late to this article, but I thought I’d share my opinion nonetheless. Do with it as you please. 🙂

      I believe Christ was passive, however let me explain. I believe he purposefully and showing more strength than I can even imagine, allowed comments to roll off his back. I read the passage in Matthew about His crucifixion just the other day and some of the comments hurled at him were astonishing. I can imagine Him hanging there, indistinguishable as a man Isaiah says, in agonizing pain knowing He could quit any time at will, yet listening to those who chose not to believe He was who He said He was mock Him. “If you are really the Christ come down from there.” If it were me, immediately I would want to prove myself. A “Just watch this” kind of attitude. However, that’s not what Christ did. He stayed there. He continued to endure the insults, the mocking and ridicule. He turned the other cheek.

      Maybe “passive” isn’t the correct term here, but He certainly did not inflict violence on anyone, even in defense. For example, the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t use violence against her accusers to defend her. He wisely choose to, what some may call passive, handle the situation without violence. Absorb the comments for a greater good.

      I believe that is the difference between a good and bad sheepdog. As you said in your article, a bad sheepdog must be punished and removed. A good sheepdog must know the difference when a strike against the sheep is worth inflicting violence or “passively” (with strength, dignity and purpose) turning the other cheek.

      • Kevin Bowser

        Jamie, welcome to the dialog!

        And I think you point to an interesting word, “passive”, that may not be the best word to use. fefines “passive” this way:

        Passive is not reacting visibly to something that might be expected to produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling.

        This speaks again to one of Billy’s original statements. The sheepdog has the “capacity” for action. But he uses it with restraint. And in fact sometimes chooses not to react or manifest an emotive response. In that moment, the sheepdog could be considered passive when he is actually exercising strength and restraint.

    • Jamie Read

      Oh, great analogy by the way. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Thank you for sharing.

      • Billy Long

        I feel as though, some have misconstrued the Sheepdog principal, especially as we would compare it to Christ. Never did I intend anyone to think I thought Christ was violent, in reality that would make him a wolf. I believe 100% Christ was, is, passive, as is the Sheepdog, however, when the climate or need presented itself, such as in the temple with the merchants and prostitutes, Christ was able to be violent. The fact that he did not come down off the cross and throw those a people a beating, the fact that he took the ridicule, are some of the things that made him a Sheepdog. After all how would a person (sheepdog) look if he walked down the street, guns visible, letting everyone know he was looking for trouble? I think those are wolf characteristics. Thanks for the input, I am really liking the discussion.

  • Aure Tan

    Although I feel that I have not read the Bible enough, it does appear to me that violence for the believer is a reaction to or a defense against evil. The saints of both the Old and New Testaments have never perpetrated violence but have always been defensive as well as advocates of the punishment of evil. Offhand, I can think of the avenger of blood in the Old Testament. Jesus did overthrow the money changers in the temple. These are just two examples.

  • As I read Aure’s comments, I am reminded that King David was a warrior and a pretty effective one as well. 1 Samuel 18:7-they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” This mighty warrior began as a lowly Shepherd herding and protecting sheep, as well as, the author of many psalms (worship praises to/about God).

    I believe God calls certain men and women to be Sheepdogs. Once David became King he called upon Benaiah to head up his bodyguard duties. Benaiah was cut from a different cloth. He jumped into a snowy pit to kill a lion. 1 Chronicles 11:22-25 In other words, he would run toward gunfire. His heart would have ached that he wasn’t in that theater to stop the shooting.

    So in the body of Christ, the church, we all have our roles. I would suggest that Pastors and Ministers discover who the Sheepdogs are in their flock. Having an ally and like-minded warrior can assist when wolves enter and sway the weak-minded. And I agree, there is nothing morally superior to being a sheepdog. It is an honored profession and role.

    To David-I wouldn’t inoculate your ministry from your former life and the capacity for violence. I would continue to testify to it as you are doing. As Christians, we have a tendency to emulate the meek and mild Jesus…instead of the strong Carpenter enduring the bloody Cross.

    I went to the movies the day after the Colorado theater shooting. I was standing at the Concession counter pocketing some change from a recent purchase of popcorn and soda. A woman approached me as I handed the treats off to my family.
    “Are you going to see Batman?” She asked. She motioned to my badge on my hip.
    “Yes. I am.” I replied.
    “Oh, good. My family is going to sit near you.”

  • Aure Tan

    Not sure where to begin my comments on all the above conversations. Am in the process of moving and so would present just a few thoughts running through my head at the moment. To me passivity has negative connotations and so does violence. These are not moral attributes that belong to God and His people. I would propose something different but I need to give that more thought. I would also propose that Christ’s death was far from being a passive act.

  • Aure Tan

    My apologies for the long silence from the earlier response. Here is what I promised but it will come in parts. First, on violence. The Bible does not picture God as doing violence. In Genesis 6, God judged that the earth was filled with violence (Gen 6:13) and decides to flood the earth and, of all men, save Noah and his family alone. On the other hand, violence is what sinful people do and God has to save His people from the violence that others commit (2 Sam 22:49, Job 19:7, Ps 11:5, 12:9, 27:12, 22:14, 73:6, etc.). In Isaiah 53, in speaking of Jesus and His suffering says of Him, “… they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.”

    I would propose that what Christians do when they defend their loved ones from evil is not call it violence because it detracts from the Biblical understanding of what violence is. Violence is the wrong thing that unbelievers do. If evil people die when I defend my loved ones or in the performance one’s duty as an agent of the State, then it is justice being served and evil people are getting their just desserts.

  • Aure Tan

    Leadership… and passivity.

    At the outset, I would like to explain why I quibble over words, which, on the surface are well understoood – words like violence and passivity. It is my belief that Christians have lost a lot of opportunity in explaining the strenth of their moral convictions because they have given up on “words”. A good example is the debate concerning abortion. Instead of calling it abortion and murder, those who would disagree with the Biblical position would call it “choice”. Surely, ‘no one can disagree about choice’, like a positive response to the gospel is one of many ‘choices’. I will leave the analogy at that since this is not a discussion on Arminianism vs Calvinism. I would continue to insist that the death of an unborn baby is not a choice, it is murder.

    Back to the main reason why I am writing this comment. God is not a ‘passive’ God. The God of the Bible actively created and is actively sustaining the world. This doctrine is universally accepted – the doctrines of Creation and Providence. God is not the deist’s god who wound a clock and left it to unwind on its own. God is actively bringing things to their proper end. History is not circular. Rather, it is linear and has a beginning and an end, the consummation of all things. The gospel, the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, is the center of this divine purpose, that is, God has consigned all to disobedience in order that he might have mercy on all (Rom 11:30).
    The death of Christ, therefore, far from being passive, was an active act of obedience by Christ. Christ suffered the believer’s death in order that the believer might be justified before God. The sufferings of Christ is once and for all sufficient for His people. Therefore, we are not look to that suffering of Christ as an example we are follow. We cannot die a death similar to Jesus. The Christian cannot be a substitute for another because of his own sin, that is, he is not sinless. In fact, we are certain that if an individual tries to carry his own sin, God will reject him because the act is a demonstration of self-righteousness, as the Pharisees did, rather than an acknowledgement of the righteousness of Christ alone. The value of Christian suffering is in a greater appreciation of the suffering of Christ and in the buildup of Christian character, producing endurance and hope (Rom 5:3-5, James 1:2).

    To return to the reason for this discussion of violence vs passivity, there is every reason for a ‘sheepdog’ to defend the sheep from those who would harm them. And the sheepdog’s job is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It would certainly be a dereliction of duty if the sheepdog were to let the sheep be dragged, mauled, or eaten. If the sheepdog itself were attacked, however, would it be wise for the sheepdog to “turn the other cheek”? For some this is a matter of conscience. However, if a sheepdog dies, there would be far more sheep that would be defenseless.

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