6 min read

A Call to the Shepherds and their Flocks

A Call to the Shepherds and their Flocks
Photo by Steven Lasry / Unsplash

The Greek word for shepherd is poimen. It's correctly translated as shepherd in the New Testament except for one place where it's usually translated as pastor. This verse lists the "offices" of the church which describe people who perform certain functions within the church body.

11So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors [poimen] and teachers,,... Ephesians 4:11
12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

As seen here, the role of the pastor is to function as an equipper of people for works of service. In other words, to equip the people in his flock to serve God and their fellow human beings. To accomplish this, the pastor must somehow incorporate biblical truths and apply them to the societal context in which we live so that the flock understands that their purpose in life is not to cater to themselves but to serve others, and in doing so, to serve God. The whole of the Bible describes this evolving process beginning with Adam in the Garden of Eden and Adam's role in the garden to care for and manage God's creation, to the last book in the Bible which describes the fall of our man-built society and the role of the Christian believer in it. Essentially, the pastor's role is to shepherd the sheep so that they can live by the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule

Jesus said:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  Matthew 7:12

The Problem

All of the above is simple to understand as it sounds noble and good, and I think very few people would object to it. The issue then is, why don't more people do it, especially if it's that simple? What is the inertia that causes most people to be stuck to their pews remainimg as passive spectators instead of becoming active participants who actually do the Golden Rule?

The Answer

If I may be so bold as to assert that the answer is that we don't like getting our hands dirty. This is the most basic and intimate answer that I can come up with.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan: Luke 10

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus' teaching is insightful in many respects. On one level, it's an indictment of those who "don't do likewise" – particularly those in the church. In Jesus' day, those in the church were the religious folks such as the priests and the Levites. Instead of stopping to assist the injured man, the priest and the Levite simply ignored the man's plight and went on their way.  The only one who stopped to help was a Samaritan man. The great irony in this parable is that in Jesus' day, the Samaritans were regarded as a despised people whom the Jews (not Jesus) refused to associate with. Yet, it's a Samaritan man who displayed compassion and helped the stranger in need.

Christians are by and large benevolent people who give generously to charities and people in need. The good Samaritan in Jesus' story also gave generously of his own monies but he also did something else. He got his hands dirty. He became directly involved as he attended to the injured stranger's wounds. And instead of leaving the man by the roadside, the Samaritan went out of his way, stayed with him at an inn he paid for, and paid extra money to the innkeeper toward the stranger's continued recovery. The moral of the story is that while it's good to contribute monies, it's better to get personally involved. Though it requires more effort, it's better to take the time to form a relationship. Christians would do well to DO as the Samaritan did.

It's All About Relationships

Forming a relationship does take time, but most of the time, we don't think we have the time to do it. Of course, I'm not talking about intruding into other people's lives but instead taking an interest in the lives of others, particularly those in need.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’    Matthew 25:34-40

The Silence of the Shepherds

The silence of pastors in general regarding all things Covid-related is deafening. A few speak out but most don't. Whether through ignorance or perceived consequences to their church's 501(c)(3) tax status regarding involvement in political issues, or fear of their congregations' reaction to the topic, this issue is essentially a taboo one. Silence though has its consequences and time is of the essence. The inability or unwillingness of pastors to address the issue of Covid-19, vaccinations, and its societal implications as it relates to scriptural principles and Bible prophecy is confounding. Shepherds are charged with keeping watch over their flocks. Neglecting to do so results in the abdication of their God-given responsibility and authority.

The silence of the German church led to hell on earth....The silence of the American church today on a host of issues is precisely similar to the silence of the German church in the thirties...that the story of what happended to the German church...is a warning to the American church and I look around and I see that the American church today to its deep shame, is exactly silent in similar ways to the silence of the German church.

Don't Get Your Hands Dirty. Just Sing a Little Louder.

Evil flourishes in the absence of people taking action. Don't wait for others to do what you can do now because, at some point in the future, it will already be too late.