Faith, Culture & The Church
"In Him [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
The Shepherd Life
To choose or be called to a life of shepherding is to be asked to protect, tend to, care for and provide food and water for a flock. The shepherd must observe when the flock is thirsty and bring them to water. He must observe when the fields is running out of grass and move the flock to a new field with enough grass to feed them all. The shepherd must always be on guard for danger of animals, treacherous paths, and cliffs. This shepherd life is a nomadic life. A life that requires movement based on the needs of the flock--water, food, protection, care.
In contrast, the life of a king is more of a settled life. A king rules from his throne and sends this person and that army to where they need to go to guard and protect the land and the people. He may seek counsel from the people outside his castle wall and make decisions based on what he hears from the people he reigns over, but he does not live with them. He does not move when the water is dry or the field emptied of grass. A good king, though, will use his resources of people and power to provide food protection for his people. He tends to the needs of the kingdom but his flock is larger and his method more static.
And then there is Jesus. The shepherd-king. This son of man, son of God, savior-king, fully human and fully God who came down to earth to show us what it means to love, what it means to serve, and what it means to lead while living on this earth with heaven in our hearts. Jesus the shepherd-king both rules and reigns with all the resources of the universe and commanding this person and that army of angels where to go. Yet, he is also the shepherd-king who walks with his flock to water and pastures when the water is dry or the food has become sparse. He is ever-present with his flock, able to observe and intervene to care for, protect and guide the flock, not leaving behind even one.
How do we let Christ be both our shepherd and our king?
I believe we submit to him as King and find peace and trust in knowing that the permanence of his reign and his throne will protect and keep us--that he will use all his power and resources to provide for the needs of His people. Our fully human Jesus knew we would be prone to needing a leader king for our hearts, but maybe more so for our minds. Yet, I believe, we must see that God doesn’t fit neatly into “this or that” definitions: is he a shepherd or he king? Because he is completely and uniquely able to be both. He is able to sit on his throne and rule and reign and at the same time come down to our pastures and lead us beside still waters and restore our souls--he is both nomadic and static. He is both able to lead us to provision (cool water and green pastures) and provide us with our needs where we are via distribution of his wealth through his governance of people and resources.
The life of a shepherd is a nomadic one of walking with the Lamb while leading His lambs. The King created the water and the pastures, the shepherd is called to lead the sheep to the provisions of the King--all the while not leaving even one behind. As leaders and teachers, when we are faced with leading those around us, we may need to seek the Lord and ask: "What do the people I am leading need? How does God want to provide for them?" In addition, it will benefit us and those we lead when we seek discernment that is line with thinking like a shepherd. And also asking for wisdom for those areas of our leading and decision making that require us to trust the King of Kings who reigns and provides. We can never be exactly like Jesus to those we lead, but we can submit to his leading us as we try our very best to lead like Christ--guiding and teaching with hearts and minds modeled after the shepherd-king.