Righteously Irreligious

Imagine for a moment that you’re a shepherd in the B.C. days. It’s just another cold, lonely, pitch-dark night, sitting by the fire, watching the sheep. Suddenly, a blinding light pierces through the blackness and you’re face to face with an angel.

He sees the terror in your eyes, knows you are thinking he has come to kill you, and declares, “Don’t be scared. I have good news of great joy for all people.” Then instructions are given as to where to find a baby, born in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth from mom’s wrap. “He’s the Redeemer, the Messiah,” the angel announces. Disbelief overwhelms reality as you think, “Why me? Why here?”

Here’s the back-story. Shepherds, as a stereotype, …

… had a reputation for being low-life’s, men of bad reputation.

… didn’t observe the ceremonial law or were religious men.

… had a reputation for stealing and dishonesty.

… were considered so unreliable that they were not allowed to testify in court.

We can’t know if these particular shepherds were like this or if they were just good men in a despised position. Regardless, God made his birth announcement to the least of these, setting a pattern for His Son’s ministry. (Matt. 25)

Another amazing possibility is this group of shepherds may have been watching the flock that would be used as the sacrificial lambs at the temple. God may have been saying, “The Lamb has come that will die once and for all for all the sins of the world. None of your animals will have to die ever again for sin.”

God was coming down to man. Religion was being replaced by a relationship. The irreligious were given a shot at righteousness.

How did the shepherds respond to God’s invitation? With immediate obedience. No questions. No plan. No doubts. They ran in response.

God trusted the most despised and irreligious bunch in the region with telling His story. But He knew that’s who He could count on to “go and tell.”

As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. —Luke 2:20a CEV

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