There is a scene toward the end of the first Toy Story movie in which Woody and Buzz are stuck in the evil next-door-neighbor-boy’s bedroom. Buzz is depressed because he has learned that he isn’t a real action hero. He’s just a toy. Woody is trying to help him to snap out of it by telling him what a cool thing it is to be a toy, and what a cool toy Buzz is with all his features, and how great it is to belong to their owner, Andy. Buzz looks at Andy’s name written in marker on the bottom of his foot, claiming him as his own, and suddenly overcomes his identity crisis.
The scene in the movie is a poignant one, but the idea of being owned by someone else generally doesn’t appeal to us. By nature, we want to be free and independent. For most people, being someone else’s piece of property, a slave, is as low as it gets.
But by faith we do belong to Jesus, and we are his treasured possession. “My sheep,” he calls us. In our human relationships, perhaps the closest we get to wanting to belong to someone else, to being possessed by someone else, is in romance and marriage. And God uses that picture for his relationship with us, too. But more than that, he owns us as his property– not just property for him to use, but property on which he lavishes his care.
An old next door neighbor of mine used to own a classic car, and every free moment he was in the driveway washing that car, and waxing that car, and under the hood fine tuning something or other. If that car were a woman, she would have been the happiest woman in the world!
There is not a single moment in which Jesus is not giving us his full attention, making us beautiful and fine tuning us spiritually. And we all know he doesn’t have very good material to work with here! He has created us, redeemed us with his blood, sought us with his word, and now sanctifies us by his Spirit.
I become his sheep when I hear his voice in his word. The word gives us faith. But it is also true that I love to listen to his voice because he has made me his sheep. If he hadn’t done this– made me his own, claimed me for himself– I wouldn’t listen. The fact that you and I listen to his voice is itself a gift of his grace.
And when we listen to his voice, he tells us such wonderful things! He whispers in our ears, “I forgive you all your sins.” He comforts us, “I am always with you.” He is constantly courting us with promises of a home with him, and strength for the day, and help with our burdens, and relief from our guilt. When we hear his voice, then we know what a blessed thing it is that when he sees us, he says, “That one’s mine!”