One objection to the Gospel that unbelievers often raise - indeed it was raised at least once on this blog last week - is, "If God is the good shepherd, why do so many sheep go astray?" If God wants no-one to perish, why don't more people accept the Gospel? Do the sheep have to look for evidence of the shepherd, or should the shepherd look for the sheep?
The first point I want to make, is that the Bible doesn't teach that some sheep have strayed, but that we have all strayed:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; (Isa 53:6)
The other thing, is that once we have come to Christ, he proves that he is the good shepherd by keeping us secure from straying.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)
So the real question is "Why don't more sheep return?"
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25)
Jesus himself expressed this problem using another analogy:
"The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2)
God has chosen to work though men and women. This was the reason he created them: that they might bring his order to the earth as it exists in heaven. There is nothing wrong with the farmer who sowed the seed, or the harvest that came up, its just waiting for labourers to go out and bring them in. The sheep who have not yet returned to the shepherd need to be told the good news, that they can come back.
The issue is "What will we do about it?" If we are straying - will we return? And having returned, will we then go out again with the message of hope. God doesn't just save us to give us a ticket to heaven, but to make us a part of his great eternal plan for this world.