They never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.

John 10:5 AMP

Were you ever told as a child not to talk to strangers? Or to not take anything a stranger offers, like sweets? I remember that one.

I remember being very alert with the rule not to talk to strangers. I’d almost be black and white about it. There’s a stranger. Must. Not. Talk. To. Them. *purposefully stare in front of myself and avoid eye contact at all costs*

I would stay close to my mother or father or other trusted people until the “stranger danger” was gone.

It’s funny how when we grow up, we outgrow this rule as well. As we become more independent, we realise that there’s almost no way to go about life without talking to people you do not know. We will continually speak with strangers, like the checkout person at the grocery store, a new lecturer at university, colleagues, people at church and people who will become friends.

It is inevitable that we will do so, and that we will do so regularly.

So does that mean the ‘do not talk to strangers rule’ is obsolete when we grow up?

Maybe not.

When we are children, the ‘strangers’ are those people we do not know. People are generally good, but this rule is set upon us to protect us from those who are not good and who could potentially cause us harm.

In John 10, the well-known parable of the Good Shepherd illustrates how this rule is still very much applicable to us, no matter how old we are.

In the parable, Jesus explains that sheep listen to the voice of their shepherd. When the shepherd calls their name, they come to him and he leads them.

…they know his voice and they recognise his call.

John 10:4 AMP

Verse 5 says, “They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:5 AMP).

The strangers Jesus refers to in this parable are robbers and thieves (John 10:1) who have no intention to care for the sheep, but wish to take them for their own gain.

Just as we are told as children, these sheep also know not to ‘talk’ to strangers because of this danger.

But as I explained before, it’s almost impossible for us to go about our lives without talking to strangers. So, how does this rule still apply to us?

When we grow up, ‘strangers’ take a different form. They become less the people we do not know, and more the thoughts and beliefs we should not engage with.

Thoughts like, I am not enough, who could ever love me, I’m hopeless, I can’t do anything right, I’m not beautiful, I hate myself etc.

If we are Jesus’ sheep, and we live in His sheepfold and listen to His voice and the things He says about us, are these thoughts then not ‘strangers’?

Are they not thieves and robbers, coming to us with sinister intentions to steal our peace and joy and to cause us harm?

Should we not do like the sheep and run away?

Yet all too often we don’t.

When I read this passage during the week, I was convicted.

How often have I talked with the strangers that try to come into the sheepfold of my mind?

How many times have I thought things about myself that Jesus does not think? How many times have I heard lies about myself and ‘talked’ to them? How many times have I accepted these lies?

And on the other side of the coin, how many times have I heard Jesus’ voice and not come to Him?

I was so convicted.

But then I heard the Holy Spirit speak.

He said, “This is not to convict you. This is to remind you of who you are. This is to remind you that when you hear the voice of a stranger, you run; and when you hear the voice of your Savior, you come to Him.”

This is not a conviction, this is an exhortation.

It is a call to come up higher, to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His voice, and only His voice.

Nowadays it’s so easy to fill our ears with noise. It is in the things we watch and listen to, the conversations we have and just the general noise of life. These things aren’t wrong or bad, but if we find that most of our time is spent ‘listening’ to these things and not to Jesus, it becomes difficult to hear His voice and respond to it, and easier to listen to the voice of ‘strangers’.

Sometimes it can also be hard to discern whose voice is who’s. This is where I find what Bill Johnson says so applicable. He often tells the story of how to identify counterfeit money. You don’t spot fake money by studying the fake, but by studying the real thing.

When you are well acquainted with the real thing, it becomes very easy to spot the fake.

In the same way, by spending time with Jesus, reading His word and devoting our ears to His voice, we will easily identify the voice of a stranger because it does not sound like Him.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we will know His voice and respond to Him.

We will easily identify the ‘strangers’, run from them, and remain close to and in the safety of our Good Shepherd.

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

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