Many “pastors” today like to use their being “under-shepherds” as a weapon of mastery over other believers. But when the Chief Shepherd appears (1 Peter 5:1-4), what will he find? Let’s take a walk with Jesus as He inspects the work of those who were entrusted with caring for His sheep, as He might on Judgment Day.
Jesus comes to the first shepherd, who snaps to attention and proudly proclaims that the sheep are all safe and secure, spotless and accounted for. But instead of a pen there is something like a boxcar for a train. Jesus opens the door, and sure enough all the sheep are there– in cages, stacked row upon row. The sheep certainly are safe and spotless, but they’re also staring blankly ahead without any concept of life outside the boxcar. They’ve never walked, much less run. They don’t know how to eat except from the trays placed in their cages and filled with whatever the shepherd doles out to them. They don’t make a sound nor interact with each other at all. And they are thin and weak.
Jesus stands there aghast at the sight, barely able to conceal His great pity for the sheep– and His great rage at this so-called shepherd. “My dear, deluded child,” He finally whispers through clenched teeth, “What have you done to my sheep? Where is the green pasture I promised them? Where are the quiet waters? Why has the flock not increased? And what is this slop you’ve been feeding them? They are wasting away on their feet! I died for them, and for you, but you have treated them worse than pets, worse than the wolves that run freely. I’m sorry but you have brought this on yourself: you will spend eternity confined to your room, dining on the slop you fed my sheep.”
Sadly He moves on to the second shepherd. This one is sitting on a throne, which is being carried by several large, fat sheep. Behind them is a long line of smaller sheep, each branded with the shepherd’s mark and carrying a banner with his name and insignia. Some are pulling a large cart filled with fine clothing, and behind them are the shivering sheep who were fleeced to make them. “I did what You said,” the shepherd announces from his throne, not even bothering to rise. “I took them to the river, I let them graze in the pasture, and I gathered many sheep who were wandering around without a shepherd.”
“Get down from there!” Jesus growls. “Who do you think you are? Whose sheep are these, and why are they branded with a mark that I don’t recognize? Were the added sheep really wandering, or did you lure or steal them from other pens, which I’ve heard reports of? And this clothing– all the garments look like they were stitched by monkeys! Only the finest linen is allowed in My kingdom, and you know that. And what do you mean by shearing My sheep and leaving them shivering, while you live in luxury? Alright then, your royal highness: you will spend eternity wearing these rags you weaved and waiting hand and foot on the very sheep you fleeced.”
Finally Jesus comes to the last shepherd. There is a modest flock grazing peacefully, some playing together, others drinking from the stream. The shepherd is in the middle of the flock, sitting on the ground to tend to a lamb that had been injured. Jesus asks, “What happened to this one?” The shepherd replies, “I found it coming from the direction of another pen. It was limping and starving, missing some fleece and showing signs of having been beaten. I had to teach it how to graze and drink from the stream, and it took quite a while for it to relax around the other sheep. But I will care for it until it is healthy. I really hope I haven’t neglected the other sheep while I care for this one. Please forgive me if I have!”
Jesus, with tears in His eyes, gently responds, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You remembered Whose sheep these are, you cared for the abused, and you did not fail to protect them from wolves– even those that claimed to be fellow shepherds. I will reward you with all that the others grasped for on their own: luxury, honor, respect, comfort, and much more.”
There is still a short time left for any of you shepherds out there who aren’t like the third one to get your act together. Remember Who other believers belong to, and treat them like the children of the King they are. Stop robbing them, beating them, confining them, and blaming them! Love does none of those things. Consider them as better than yourselves and not slaves to do your bidding. Treat them as you have been demanding they treat you. Heal the wounds you yourself have inflicted and feed them only the best theological meat. Be motivated by the fact that you will be judged more strictly (James 3:1) and held to account (Heb. 13:17). If you think yourself to be an “under-rower” (Gk. doulos), then what are you doing at the helm?