So, I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:1-4
Peter wrote this letter to encourage believers to endure intense persecution in their geographical area and prepare for the challenging times ahead of them. The first empire-wide persecution of the Christians did not come until AD 249 under the brutal emperor Decius, but often, local persecutions were quite severe. One incident took place early in the second century in Bithynia, one of the provinces to which Peter wrote (1 Peter 1:1). In AD 112, a governor by the name of Pliny sent a letter to the Roman emperor Trajan, explaining how he had been executing those who confessed to being Christian. Trajan replied with approval of Pliny’s policy, instructing him to let go of any Christians who would renounce their faith and worship the Roman gods. Since 1 Peter was most likely written in AD 60, severe persecution was yet to come. This exhortative letter was a call to suffer as “Christians,” not as lawbreakers.
Have you suffered as an elder, a priest, a shepherd, a Christian? Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom,” and in Revelation 5:10 we read, “Through your blood, you have made us into priests and kings.” It is therefore true that you and I are elders, priests of our household, our workplace, our area of operation, and thus are eagerly encouraged to spiritually feed those underneath us in the nourishment of the Scriptures, even if it involves suffering. This fervor to lead by example is not under pressure but rather out of adoration, affection, high regard, fondness, and devotion toward our King of Kings.
On February 24th, 2004, I was operationally connected to the 5th Special Forces Group in Baghdad, Iraq. At 0300 hours (3 AM), we were sitting on the roof of my tactical vehicle, waiting to conduct a raid and capture a high-value target of Saddam Hussein’s Regime. Intelligence informed us that, upon entering the residence, we would be met by 30 Fedayeen Saddam Fighters armed with AK-47 rifles and RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades). We would be entering with only six American soldiers. Reckoning with the situation before us, my fellow soldier and friend came to me and said, “We are going to die this morning.” Although he did not view me as his “shepherd,” God already did. As shepherds, we are not called to cower or run from our mission in times of suffering. Desiring to exhort him to stand firm and continue in the will of God set before him, I responded.
“You have no clue what will happen to you this morning. May I ask where your life is with the Lord? This is the only thing you must concern yourself with.” Are you in the hands of the living God? My friends, your role as an elder is not confined to the four walls of a church. John Wesley once said, “The world is my parish.” Therefore, you who are reading this, God has called you to be an elder in this world. Your call is to shepherd the flock of God that is among you.
May we heed the call of Peter. The verb Shepherd (ποιμάνατε) is aorist, relating to or denoting a past tense of a verb (especially in Greek) that does not contain any reference to duration or completion of the action. My friends, we are called to shepherd, lead, teach, and feed whoever is among us, continually. Wherever you are, whatever you do, Shepherd until the Chief Shepherd comes to crown you with His glory.
Father, You must show us who is among us! We need Your eyes to see who we are to expediently and urgently encourage. Of whom are we to have spiritual oversight? Holy Spirit, forgive us for leading out of compulsion. Rend our hearts and give us the ability to lead in joy, peace, patience, love, and steadfastness—never ceasing to teach others, even in the face of danger and fear.
Rev. Jeffrey Walsh
Ministry Director, Christian Union Lux
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