Why are sheep and goats in the same church?


Mike Ruffin


Mike Ruffin
Religion Columnist

Friday, January 26, 2018

“And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…Then he will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’.” (Matthew 25:33-34, 41)

When I lived in Georgia, my wife and I visited several churches before we finally found our church home. I will never forget the first day I visited my soon-to-be church home. One of the members recognized me and quipped, “Come sit over here on the sheep side. The goats are over there on the left.”

I saw him every Sunday and we continued to joke each other about the benefits of sitting on the sheep side of the church. In the parable at Matthew 25, sheep are saved and goats are lost. However, I’m sure that is not the point my church friend was making. In fact, if you’re familiar with the parable of the wheat and the tares at Matthew 13, then you know that it is very hard to tell, from the outside, whether someone is saved or lost. In other words, while Jesus knows those who are sheep and those who are goats, we cannot spiritually discern such a truth. That’s why we are admonished at Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.”

While my friend was humorously suggesting that there is a right side and a wrong side on which to sit in church, his analogy made me think much more deeply about those with whom we worship. The truth is we all look saved, but we’re not all saved. There are some goats among us and you might be surprised to learn that they attend church every Sunday in record numbers.

Researcher George Barna has discovered that “half of all adults who attend protestant churches on Sunday are not Christian.” He also points out that people who call themselves Christians but are not born again are “a group that constitutes a majority of churchgoers.” Bill Bright, now-deceased founder and fifty-year president of Campus Crusade for Christ, wrote a few years back that “50% of the hundred million people in church here in the United States are not sure of their salvation.” You think about that statement the next time you question why your pastor issues an invitation at the end of the service.

Just today, my secretary and I were looking out my second floor office window listening to and watching the effects of the wind as it strangely whistled down the street. “I tell you, Mike,” she said. “We’re seeing so much that we can’t explain in the world. Here we are in the dead of winter and experiencing spring-like weather. It’s just another sign to me that we are racing to the end of time.”

I told my secretary that the thought that pained me the most was the deadly surprise that would greet so many of those who sit in church with us. Jesus said it this way: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

I don’t know how much time we have left, but I do know that some of those who sit next to us in the pews on Sunday don’t know the Jesus that we know. Let’s honor our Lord, his commission to us and do our part to make sure that our friends are recognized by him as sheep and not goats.

Write to Mike Ruffin at mike.ruffin@devotions.com. His website is devotions.com.