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Stephen King and the Bad Shepherds

(a Steve Orr scripture reflection)


Author Stephen King creates some intriguing characters, captivating beings who draw us ever deeper into his tales. Surprisingly, it is his lesser characters that often capture our interests and imagination. Consider King’s “low men.” 


The low men usually show up to perform distinct, limited—almost always bad—actions. Then, fairly quickly, they move off the stage. They’re pretty horrible. In their true form, they appear as rat-like humanoids, complete with fleas, lice, and, sometimes, rabies. They dress in garishly colored out-of-fashion clothing, and they drive vintage cars—which might not actually be cars, but something else, entirely. 


If having the heads of rats isn’t frightening enough, the fact that they walk among us on two legs just ratchets up the creep factor. In every scene, we always have the sense that things are about to go from bad to worse. There is no question as to how King wants his readers to regard these creatures. We don’t need fiction, though, to think of similar folk. We’ve all met some, haven’t we?

There are some low men in this week’s scriptures—and some of them are shepherds. Consider especially the passages from John and Acts. 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus contrasts Himself (“the good shepherd”) with those who, by their acts of low character, have proven themselves to be not-good shepherds. Of those real-life “low men,” He says that when “wolves” threaten the sheep, the not-good shepherds will run away and leave the sheep to the wolves. The result? Some of the sheep will be “snatched” by the wolves, which will surely lead to their deaths. Others will “scatter” in fear for their lives.


He says the not-good shepherd “runs away” because the not-good shepherd “does not care for the sheep.” By contrast, Jesus tells us that the good shepherd will do all he can to protect and save the sheep, even going so far as to lay down his own life for them. We are the sheep in this illustration. And the shepherds? Those who claim to be our spiritual leaders.


The point: Jesus wanted everyone to understand that the measure of whether a shepherd is good or not good is based on what the shepherd does for the sheep. Most important, He wanted us to know that everyone has a choice, Himself included. 


The main reason that Stephen King’s “low men” are the way they are is because of what they are. As his fictional creations, they have no choice to be anything other than low. 


In contrast, Jesus did not lay down His life for us because it was destined. He had the power and authority to choose.


He chose to lay down His life for us because He is the good shepherd.



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