Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good Shepherd?

I was just reading John 10 and it's Jesus talking about being the Good Shepherd. Interestingly enough, the chapter continues, referencing Hanukkah, essentially Christmastime, which gives us a very different image of shepherds than what Jesus is getting at. Usually around this time of year we hear about Shepherds in the fields, getting scared by angels, leaving their sheep and worshipping baby Jesus. Here, Jesus talks about himself as THE Shepherd, the Good Shepherd and juxtaposes his care for his sheep with someone who is simply hired to do so. And it got me thinking...

The most often used image of a pastor is a shepherd. The pastor shepherds his or her "flock" or congregation. But unlike Jesus - we're paid to do it. And what does Jesus say about the hired hand?

"[He'll] run when he sees a wolf coming. He will leave the sheep because they aren't his and he isn't their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he is merely hired and has no real concern for the sheep."

So, what can this say to us as pastors, as "shepherds"? Is it true, that not being THE Shepherd, being merely "hired hands" or stewards of someone else's flocks makes us less concerned with their care? Do we really run away when things get tough? Do we really simply leave and allow our flock or congregation to scatter, to disintegrate? We do. We do it all the time. Whether it's for a better position with more pay or benefits, a congregation that looks "nicer" or a "better fit" or simply because we're "burnt out" from serving in that context. I think that's a horrible model of Christ's love. Yeah, sometimes we need to "move on" for one reason or another. Sometimes God actually calls us somewhere else, but that doesn't mean we're not left with the responsibility to leave that flock in a better place than when we found it, and seek to provide for them the care they need, so they won't be scattered.

There is definitely something to be said for emulating Christ's shepherd metaphor - but we've got to be careful to do more than live up to the image of a hired hand...

1 comment:

Higgins said...

Hey Don,

I like what you are saying. Recently, I listened to a sermon by Ravi Zacharius. In it he says (I paraphrase), "Men and women enter into ministry these days ask 'what benefits will I have - dental, $40 000 a year at least, and so on?' What men and women entering into ministry really need to be asking is 'what is this going to cost me and will I surrender what it will cost?'"

This has been a huge question in my own heart, as I seek to revive the original reason why I agreed to follow this call to ministry on my life in the first place: to bring the Good News!

What will it cost us to be ones who bear Good News to the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed?