“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. ” John 10:9-12 (NIV)
This passage and the few verses before and after it discuss the role of The Good Shepard. As Christ was the shepherd, we in the lay ministry, deaconate, presbyter, and bishop role are called to lead out flocks by His example.
We are the leaders, in this case our role within the church is compared to that of the shepherd… the good shepherd. In order to understand this role let us first look at the foundational characteristics that a good shepherd must be built upon:.
An effective shepherd:
-Loves his sheep…his flock, and cultivates an intimate relationship with those sheep. Each sheep knows the shepherd’s voice in turn trusting him.
-Understands the needs of the sheep better than they do and provides for them.
-Recognizes what threatens his sheep with sickness as well as predator and protects them accordingly.
-Guides his flock to both fresh pastures and fresh water… a source of life and nutrients.
-Searches out for his sheep when they stray and returns them safely to the flock without scolding them.
-Scouts out the way before them and goes ahead of the flock and preparing the path for them.
-Instructs his sheep when they have done wrong and corrects them with love and mercy.
-Comforts his sheep when they are hurt or fearful. Caring for each one… unconditionally loving his flock…willing to sacrifice his life for them if necessary.
A shepherd that does not carry these qualities is a poor shepherd and a lousy agronomist.
In essence a shepherd takes care of his flock… Jesus was an example as how we all should be as good shepherds. As leaders to our peoples we must set the example. If we cannot the vocation of the ministry must be rethought.
We must not just talk the talk… but walk the walk. So many of today’s people have left the church and their faith… and so many more have never been lead to Christ that we are obligated to be the good shepherd. For many, it our example is what will make it or break it in regards to their faith. Each of us must decide if we are a maker or a breaker.
Jesus set two commandments, the New Covenant, … “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
As the Good Shepard this is our motto, our mantra…. This is what our life is based on. A good shepherd does the right thing… he or she lives in accordance with the New Covenant. In all that we do, in all that we say, in all that we think…. We are the Good Shepard 24/7, 365 days a year. We cannot falter.
We cannot do this ‘just when others are watching’, but all the time, for God is always watching. We cannot permit ego to allow us to think we are better than anyone else. Humility is important; humility is critical to be a good shepherd. We must be all-welcoming, and pass no judgment on others for only God can judge…. And we are not God, but His faithful servant. We are no better and no worse than the drug addict, the prostitute, the criminal. Jesus sat with the sinner and the tax collector. He welcomed them into His flock. He loved them, cared for them, and showed them the way to The Father. He set the example. As the Good Shepard we are to follow by his example. God is Love. Jesus is Love. The Holy Spirit is Love…. And in turn we as His faithful followers and His shepherds are Love. By His example we are their (the flock) example.
Though we may stumble from time to time, for we have human flaws… it is the example of Jesus as the Good Shepard that we should use as our life direction and guide. And so we are challenged to pick up our crook and be that Good Shepard.