(Written for the FW challenge, but didn't submit in time.)
Joseph rubbed at the back of his cramping neck, staring up at the rim of a deep pit he’d been thrust into. “Lord, this is nothing like the dream you gave me. My brothers hate me. Yet, I will trust you—thy will be done.”
In the darkness, he walked trembling fingers around the rough sides of the shaft, searching for hand-holds—anything he could use to scale the sides. Nothing but dirt.
Brother Reuben had spared his life, yet along with Joseph’s other brothers, conspired to get rid of the family member they despised. A classic case of treacherous sibling rivalry.
“The dreamer who thinks he’s better than the rest of us.”
Taunting laughter reverberated in Joseph’s memory. The parting malevolent comment from one brother had stung like a scorpion. “Should I bow to you now, oh great and mighty Joseph?”
The Old Testament is replete with accounts of black sheep amongst families. They stand out as distinctly different. They don’t quite conform to the family’s norm in character or appearance. Joseph. Sold into slavery by his own brothers, because he was different—a no-account dreamer.
The sting of rejection must have threatened to paint Joseph’s attitude with shades of bitterness and resentment. Yet, he had a dream to hold onto, and faith—strength from God. Faith is what takes our distinct difference and relegates it to a purpose. We could all be considered black sheep in some way.
A widow at church, whom we affectionately call Grandma Nancy, feels useless. The cannula from her oxygen hose wobbled as she shook her head. Wringing age-splotched hands in the lap that has comforted many grandchildren, she spoke weakly.
“Everyone else is serving in some way. I don’t have anything to offer. Macular degeneration has taken my sight. I can’t write the newsletters or print the bulletins anymore.”
Yet, she has a new gift, which she utilizes expertly. Nancy is the greatest encourager I know, giving out hugs each Sunday. A line forms every week to get that bit of assurance: Someone besides God loves me.
She still feels like the black sheep of the congregation, but continues to be one of our most valued members. Hmmm. Maybe our blackness can be an illusion.
God had a great purpose for Joseph’s brothers painting him black. He ended up saving his entire family from starvation and planted the Israelites in the land of Egypt, fulfilling God’s plan. Accepting our own uniqueness, realizing its worth, allows us to embrace God’s purpose for us.
It stabs at my heart to see my wife in severe physical pain, day after day. She felt useless too—a black sheep. Yet, when others who are suffering come along, the compassion God has given her because of her own pain, propels her into the most tender and beautiful of ministries for those who hurt. In Christ, that abnormality we would typically be considered an outcast for, becomes the very tool that God will use for His glory.
Poor health can cause us to feel as though we don’t fit in. Consider Dave Vicigic, who has no arms or legs, yet has inspired millions of young people, pointing them to Christ. The Apostles of Jesus were uneducated. Black sheep.
Blending us all together in Christ, God takes away the lines of differences, creating one body, all equal in importance.
“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.” (Galatians 3:27 NLT) The next verse colors us all the same.
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Regardless of our income, education, race, gender, poor health, or any other distinction one could make, through faith in Christ we all wear the brilliant white robe of God’s unprejudiced grace. There are no black sheep in God’s family!
The next verse assures our place as an accepted white sheep, no matter our uniqueness.
“And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you.”
Though we are each a work in progress, under the cleansing blood of our redeemer, we are all white sheep. That which had previously made us a black sheep, becomes a prism refracting the radiance of God into a rainbow of colorful productivity, for His glory. Through faith in Christ, black sheep become white—as white as snow!