The Shepherd in Christianity
The Lord is my Shepherd, this is how David saw God as he wrote one of the most famous Psalms in the Bible. Psalm 23 is a very beautiful picture that portrays God as our shepherd who provides what we need as well as protects and guides us along the way. As a shepherd himself, David knew the role of taking care of the sheep. In fact, David also said of stories of occasions where he needed to save the sheep from the mouth of the lion and the bear. Depicting God as our shepherd is indeed an apt description of His relationship with us. He leads us to quiet waters. He makes us lie down in green pastures. He renews our strength.
In our times, God has also allowed other people to lead us and to shepherd us. Our pastors, our teachers and our leaders are persons who were anointed by God to guide His people towards the fulfilment of the mandate of His Kingdom. In fact, I believe all Christians are called by God to become shepherds of His people, especially in helping new believers to be in deeper relationship with the Lord. So if we are to guide other people in their walk with Christ, let us follow the examples that were set by God all throughout the Bible.
1. A Shepherd Guides the Flock
A shepherd knows that he cannot walk too fast to be so much ahead or to walk so slow that he is left behind. If he does this, the sheep that are following him will be confused on which way they should go. Still in Psalm 23, David said of God, “He leads me beside quiet waters.”(v.2) and “He guides me along the right paths.” (v.3). As our Shepherd, God guides and leads us in those places where we can find comfort and rest. He also lead us to those places where we can know Him better and learn His commands so that we can be in a right relationship with Him.
We also have the same responsibilities to those people that God has brought to our lives. We must always do our best to guide them especially when they are undergoing some difficult situations, confusion and other negative experiences. As shepherds, our role is to let them in the presence of God where they can find peace, joy and freedom.
2. A Shepherd Must Know the Way
In relation to the shepherd’s role to guide the flock, it is also basically important that they know the way to go there. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) Jesus also portrayed Himself as the Shepherd of God’s flock. As the sheep hears the voice of the Lord, they know it was Him and they follow Him. This is quite easy for Jesus because as He said in another part of the Bible that He is ‘the Truth.’ But, how about us? Do we also know and seek the truth of God so we can lead the people of God correctly? Or the truths that we hold on to are mere shadows of what the Bible really says.
If you will look at the current situation of the Church, a lot of people have risen to the role of a shepherd without really knowing the truth. It is really dangerous when this is happening that results to people that are being estranged from the truth of God’s Words. A shepherd must speak the truth and for him to know the truth he must immerse himself in the study of the Scriptures. If we aspire to lead people then we should be led by the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives.
3. A Shepherd Must Protect the Sheep
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) In this verse of Psalm 23, David speaks of the reassuring protection that God provides in his life. We know how David had fought so many battles in his life – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet in spite of all this, he still finds safety in the arms of God, his shepherd. It is a comforting realization knowing that God can protect us even in the ‘valley of the shadow of death.’ And true enough, God rescued us from the dominion of darkness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
If we have been called by God as shepherds of His flock, then we must also take the responsibility of those people that He has given in our lives. Wolves in sheep clothing, deceitfulness of wealth and the worries of this life can sap the passion and love of these people for God so we must take our stand. Protect our brothers and sisters the way that God is protecting us.
4. A Shepherd Must be Willing to Sacrifice
We have the most extraordinary Shepherd in the world. Jesus as our guide and leader took the initiative to offer Himself as a sacrifice for us. Do you know that a sheep is considered as a very simple minded animal? It could easily be lost, practically defenceless and somewhat dumb in the standard of the animal kingdom. Because of this, the Shepherd must always be guiding the sheep. Just like how God is guiding us. But He took it to another level; God sacrificed His own Son for us.
As shepherds of God’s flock, God also expects that we will be willing to sacrifice for the people that we lead. Because leading and guiding people is not about you, it’s about them knowing a little more about God everyday and encountering His love in profound ways. We must be willing to sacrifice a portion of our comfort, our time and even our finances in order for other people to experience the grace and the love of the Ultimate Shepherd of all – God Himself.