The Good Shepherd Part 3
Three-Part Blog Series
These next points are probably the most crucial for us to truly understand the Good Shepherd and to allow Jesus to shepherd our hearts and transform us to be more like Him. I do have to caution you - this next point may raise a few questions or concerns. But my hope is that as you read, you’ll hear my heart and experience the love of Jesus because Jesus loved all people throughout the New Testament. He met them where they were at. So as you continue to read, hear the heart of Jesus and allow Him to show you how we love all people and want to bring them into the sheep pen.
4. The Good Shepherd invites all sheep to his flock
In our western culture, we love to scream about the differences we have whether it be race, sexuality, gender, politics, our morals, and so much more. The list can go on. But we fail, as a church and as pastors, to ensure all people are welcomed into the presence of God! Our churches have become exclusive rather than inclusive. We have churches that invite the stylish but avoid the opposite. Churches that want flash and wealth and in doing so, they exclude the poor and mistreated. We are supposed to be a church for all people because the good shepherd goes for all sheep and brings them in his sheep pen! We’ve distorted the heart of Jesus to the point that we use him to excuse our own selfish motives. “Well, I have to dress this way in order to reach the wealthy and high class”. It is sad that the church has become a place of division when it comes to bringing all people in His kingdom, his sheep pen for the sake of the pastor's political opinion or theological view rather than being like Jesus, who brings all of them in.
Howard Thurman, who was an American author, theologian, and civil rights leader during the civil rights movement, writes:
“The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish thinker and teacher appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed. That it became, through the intervening years, a religion of the powerful and the dominant, used sometimes as an instrument of oppression, must not tempt us into believing that it was thus in the mind and life of Jesus. 'In him was life; and the life was the light of men.' Wherever his spirit appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.” - Howard Thurman
Jesus wants to seek out all people and this goes beyond just the color of skin but every living body that has faced every kind of oppression and rejection that has been embedded with every cultural society all over the world. Jesus wants to bring in the deaf community, he wants to bring in the special needs community, he wants to bring everybody who has been outcast. We fail as a church miserably when it comes to bringing in people who are part of the deaf community or the special needs community because we get uncomfortable. Instead of welcoming in all these different communities, we think as Christians that we have to pray for their physical healing! That they need a miracle! Why? So they can stop making you feel uncomfortable!? When it comes to healing, the first to happen is not physical, then people get to come into the family of God. No, get that out of your head, healing is in the soul. The heart. That is exactly what Jesus wants, that healing is not physical healing within these communities, the healing is to be seen by society the way Jesus sees them and to love them the way Jesus loves them.
I am going to say something that we as pastors and church lack when it comes to being like Jesus. Jesus wants us to welcome the transgender community. If we are called to be shepherds, then we have to shepherd all sheep and that includes the transgender community, because the love of Jesus needs to be the most overwhelming presence that pierces their heart and says they are welcomed in his love and that Jesus is willing to walk with them in their most vulnerable state. There is so much spiritual brokenness in our world that instead of being like Jesus we attack the sexuality of others, calling them names which only drives them away from Jesus, not towards Jesus. We christians want to be right, not welcoming. We say, “I am right and I love them and I'll be praying for them”, no your loving from a distance, Jesus loves is not to be seen from afar to attract and hook those who are rejected and abused, no his love pursues them. His love is right there next to them ready to give them the biggest and warmest hug they’ve always yearned for.
Henri Nouwen writes,
“It is obvious that our brokenness is often most painfully experienced with respect to our sexuality. Our sexuality reveals to us our enormous yearning for communion. The desires of our body– to be touched, embraced and safely held – belong to the deepest longings of the heart and are very concrete signs of our search for oneness… It is precisely around this yearning or communion that we experience so much anguish” - Henri Nouwen
The love that has been given to us has also been given to this community. I know this probably makes some of you squeamish but when we realize that Christianity as a whole is not about being right politically or being on the right side of heaven and fighting against ideologies. It is about us sinners, which we all are, finally being restored to a relationship with God, who through his son, took our sin and put it to death. As we live on Earth, we are still sinners, so what makes you qualified to throw a stone at those who are struggling with their identity and sexuality? Welcome them in and love all people like Jesus did. Jesus gave freedom to the woman they wanted to stone because they wanted to be right. Jesus gave life to the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jewish community and religious leaders but later Jesus brings all Samaritans into his sheep pen. Jesus loves all people, and he wants them to hear his voice so that may have life.
I love what David Powlison says when he is encouraging and challenging Pastors to pursue people like Jesus, he writes:
“You have the opportunity to pursue people. Jesus Christ goes looking for people. He takes the initiative in loving them. Even when people seek him out with their sufferings and sins, they are responding to what they’ve heard about who he is, what he says, how he cares, and what he can do… Our redeemer always makes the first move, and his operandi is active. The Good Shepherd goes after the one that is lost, until he finds it. Good shepherds do likewise.” - David Powlison
We also have to realize that Jesus, the Good Shepherd has given his life for all of humanity.
5. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep
Here is where we see the physical definition of a good shepherd. Jesus claims that he is the good shepherd and the first action of the good shepherd is the willingness to lay down his own life for the sheep. Not a lot of pastors who claim to be like Christ are willing to go above and beyond to the point of death for the sake of God's people, are they?
This is a wild statement from Jesus. Because a shepherd will guide and do anything it takes to get the sheep from point A to point B for the benefit of the shepherd to live and make money to survive. The sheep are a survival for the shepherd yet here Jesus is saying that he not only is their guide and sustainer but the sheep are worth more than a living wage, they are worth the life of a shepherd so they may have eternal life.
Jesus talks about a hired hand (someone hired for short-term labor work) and says that this man would flee when a wolf comes to attack the flock. Jesus here is reminding the religious leaders and the Pharisees who care more about the law than the love of God that they are like a hired hand rather than a shepherd. They care nothing for the sheep, they only care about making (stealing) money from the poor (the sheep) so when evilness attacks the sheep, they will flee to save their own lives and wealth.
Jesus is our model for a good shepherd. I want each and every one of you to discern and know the good shepherds that carry humility and honesty and love just like Jesus, all the while knowing that you are being shepherded by the true Good Shepherd, Jesus.
We have a good shepherd, one who is willing to sit with us in our pain, hurt, grief, sadness, depression, anxiety, and everything that creates in us a broken heart. He is the good shepherd who weeps and knows He has the power to overcome any of our emotions or circumstances and we all need this shepherd.
In the words of Clement of Alexandria:
“In our sickness we need a Saviour, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water that quenches forever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus.” -Clement of Alexandria
As I said before, one of the main points of the book of John is for us to discern the presence of God in the mess and muddle of our reality. Jesus wants to be your shepherd, he wants you to hear his voice and for you to find him as he calls.
Can we all stand up? I want us to put Jesus at the center of our lives because that is where he can shepherd us to the fullest. If you want to discern the presence of Jesus, we must allow the Holy Spirit to comfort us in our mess and our pain, hurt, and sorrow, and see that Jesus is deeply moved and he wants you to be aware of his presence yet he is holding the Glory of God. So I want to end this by challenging you to read Psalm 23. I want you to see the beautiful shepherd, Jesus, and that through the psalm, he is shepherding you.
Watch this Full Sermon
Read Part 1
Read Part 2