11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
In Western Cowboy Culture there is a saying, a question really, “Do you ride for the Brand?”
It is a question of commitment.
You see, there are two kinds of ranch hands out there: There is the ranch hand that is in it for the fame of saying he’s a cowboy or because he just needs a paycheck. But the day the barn door slams shut wrong he is out of there. Audios amigos!
Then there is another kind of hand. This is the ranch hand that probably started working the pens when he was young. Now grizzly and old, he has seen the ups and downs of a place. He has ridden though all weather. He has fixed the barn door. He has ridden fence in blistering heat. He has drug in calf after calf in blizzard winds so cold he’s not sure he still has fingers…or toes. He’s seen seasons of plenty and seasons of drought or sickness. Yet, every day he wakes up, steps of the bunkhouse porch and goes to work.
A cowboy that rides for the brand is committed. He sees that herd or flock as his own. Not as his possession really. No, He knows the animals in his charge belong to the Big Boss. But he is going to do everything in his power to make sure that they have the feed they need, and that they are doctored when sick. He’ll watch over them at night during calving, and he sure as heck isn’t going to let a wolf or cat come in and take one of those new born calves…or lambs. Not on his watch anyway.
You might think (especially if you live east of the Mississippi) that people and ranch hands like this are fables of the past. In today’s high dollar, high stakes work force it really can be hard to imagine. But, I’m here to tell you that there are still men and women who ride for the brand. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some. These people are tough. Like, real tough. They have the courage to keep going. They persevere even when it costs them or looks like there is little gain.
So what about us? What about you? ….me? Do we ride for the brand? Or are we some fly-by-night-rhinestone-cowboys? What are we in for? What happens when the going gets tough? What happens when we face trial and hardship?
Are we out? or are we committed, Riding for the Brand?
The great news is that in terms of the outfit we are on. We have the best “Big Boss” around. Even better, he has laid out exactly what he expects of his hands and even has given us a “Ranch Foreman” via the Holy Spirit to help us along the way. Will we still mess up? Will there be times we want to cut out early on Friday and head to town? You bet! But come Saturday morning, we better be up and ready to take care of the stock. We as the hands have a responsibility to His flock… or herd.
The Christian life is not like some Dude Ranch where we can check in when it sounds exciting. And check out when we’ve had enough. Being true Christ followers is going to cost something. It’s going to require something. It’s going to mean long hours in all weather.
But, you know something? I have yet to talk to a real rancher or hand that doesn’t count every moment of it worth it.
I’ve also never meant a true saint of the faith that hasn’t said the same thing.
So, Will you ride for the brand?
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
John 21: 15-17