In a country, there is a large herd of sheep. The entire herd is enclosed in a pasture, guarded by a fence. The pasture is large enough for all the sheep to fit. There is plenty of food and water. There are other sheep to interact with, but the best part of this pasture is the safety given by the fence enclosing it. Along with the fence, there are shepherds who watch over the large mass of sheep. Because of the fence and the shepherds, nothing harmful has ever made its way into the herd to kill the sheep. Occasionally a sheep will get free of the fence and past the shepherds, and will wander off where it either starves or is killed. The shepherds are vigilant in their efforts to keep this from happening. They want all the sheep to stay safe and happy, inside the fence.

As the years wore on, the shepherds started running into some problems. One of them was an unusual amount of deaths among the herd of sheep that were safe inside the pasture. The shepherds began watching the sheep more closely, and discovered that despite the abundance of food in the pasture, some of the sheep were not eating. For whatever reason, 5-10% of the population just didn’t eat the grass in the meadow. Some shepherds believed the sheep to be allergic to the grass, while others just thought the sheep were being stupid, and refused to eat the grass in the meadow.

As they watched these sheep, they did notice that every single member of this small group would from time to time go to one corner of the meadow, stick their necks through the fence, and strain to get at a clump of grass growing outside the boundaries of the pasture. Upon closer examination, the shepherds discovered that this was a different type of grass that grew on the outside of this corner of the fence. It was still grass, but it had a slightly different color and shape. As time wore on, many of these ‘other’ sheep escaped the pasture, and the Shepherds believed them to be lost and dead. They later found these lost sheep at the back corner of the pasture, on the outside of the fence, happily eating the other type of grass. The shepherds tried to coax the sheep to come back in, and some were successfully herded back into the safety of the pasture, but other sheep would not come back, and returned again and again to the corner with the grass. The sheep still stuck close to the fence, trying to cling to the safety and companionship that life in the pasture had given them, but their need for this different type of grass prevented them from fully enjoying the safety and comfort that the meadow offered.

The sheep that were successfully brought back to the herd became very sick. They did not eat, they did not move around very much. Some fared better than others, but for the most part, the ones that were returned to the meadow ended up eventually dying. Seeing this, the shepherds decided that the grass outside the meadow was poisonous, and redoubled their efforts to keep the sheep away from that back corner.

The sheep who were already outside the fence eating the other grass were healthy, but in danger. The shepherds tried their very best to bring them back to the fold, but despite their efforts and their coaxing, the majority of the sheep stayed out there. The shepherds would wake every morning to discover that some had been killed and eaten by wolves in the night. Some were no longer staying near the pasture at all, and were lost.

…     …     …

That is where the parable ends for now. I would like to stick a happy ending on this, but I can’t, because we are still living it. I sincerely believe that, in time,  there will be a happy ending.