The saga of sheep, shepherds, MJ & JWs
As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the King of Pop was “dethroned,” as it were, when among his spiritual brothers. He himself said that, instead of treating him like royalty, Witness “elders treated me the same as they treated everyone else.” (The Michael Jackson Tapes, 2009) These elders, or spiritual shepherds, treated Michael like any other sheep of the flock. (Ac 20:28; 1Pe 5:2-4) Still, although each sheep is unique, Michael was very different, to say the lease.
To help put this all in perspective, Alymbek Bekmanov, who grew up to become a shepherd in the village of Chyrpykty, which is on the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, not far from Kyrgyzstan, a former republic of the Soviet Union, gives his experience in the March 2011 issue of Awake! magazine. “We gave a name to every sheep, according to differences in their appearance or character traits.” Goats, on the other hand, were noted for being stubborn. Jesus noted this contrast between sheep and goats:
“When the Son of Man arrives in all his glory, along with all the angels with him, then he’ll sit on his glorious throne. And all ethnic groups will be gathered before him and he’ll separate people from one another just like a shepherd separates sheep from goats. He’ll put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the king will invite those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the government prepared for you from the time the world was founded.'” (Matt 25:31-34, Carr’s Christian Bible) “Then he’ll turn his attention to those on his left, saying, ‘Be gone from me-cursed ones-into the perpetual fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.'” (Matt 25:41, CCB) Yes, the more docile sheep were on Jesus’ right side, while the more obstinate goats were on his left (which, incidentally, means sinister in Latin).
But, even some sheep can be stubborn. That this undesirable trait is not exclusive to goats, Bekmanov makes a rather fascinating observation: “In a flock there always seemed to be stubborn sheep. For some reason they just didn’t want to obey the shepherd. At times, other sheep were inclined to follow a disobedient one. So the shepherd would try to train and discipline the stubborn ones. For example, he would leave such a sheep in the pen alone. In time, some accepted correction and followed the shepherd’s directions.” Indeed, God says that he will “judge between a sheep and a sheep.”–Ez 34:17, 22, New World Translation.
Interestingly, when a congregation member is persistently disobedient, the shepherds will “try to train and discipline” him by isolating the stubborn one from other congregation members who may be inclined to follow him. As the saying goes, one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch; or, put scripturally, “a little leaven ferments the whole lump.” (1Co 5:1-13, NWT) Such stubbornness can spread like a spiritual virus, infecting the minds of coreligionists. As is the case with real sheep, some of the faithful ‘accept correction and follow the shepherds’ directions.’ But what about sheep who don’t?
“Sheep that remained stubborn ended up on our dinner table,” said Bekmanov. Without a doubt, Michael believed that if you weren’t grounded in your love for Jehovah as evidenced by observing his commandments, Satan and his worldwide system would eat you alive. (1Co 5:5; 2Co 4:4; 1 Jn 5:3, 19) But did Michael ever clash with appointed shepherds?
“I had questions that sometimes even the elders couldn’t answer … I’m the kind of guy who used to grab the microphone and say, ‘Well, what about this and what about that?’ they would say, ‘Brother Jackson, we will talk to you later.’ They would come up with this other funny kinda answer that wouldn’t drive the point home.” (The Michael Jackson Tapes) This is not to suggest that the Moonwalker was recalcitrant, walking willy-nilly all over the elders. What it does suggest is a breakdown in communication.
Encouragingly, Bekmanov notes: “If we found that a sheep was missing, my uncle would … go out looking for the lost one–even going out when it was raining and dark to search for just one lamb. He would call loudly. His voice would scare off wild animals. When a sheep heard that voice, you could just see that it felt safe.” (Jn 10:1-6, 16) Feel safe Michael. Peace and blessings to all. Amen.