To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:1-5 (NIV)
The apostle Peter is displaying Jesus’ example of self sacrifice and serving others in the community. He teaches humility, living by example, and sacrificing one’s time and treasure for others. His example points us to Jesus.
Not every person or organization who claims to be part of Christ’s church truly represents Him. The Gospel is good news, but not easy news. Anyone who teaches a theology of anything other than a theology of the Cross – one in which we are urged to pick up our own crosses and follow Jesus- is not teaching right theology. The Bible always brings us back to the foot of the Cross, and to the heart of Jesus. If we truly follow Jesus we will sacrifice and we will suffer. We will not lead others to worship us, but we will lead others to worship Jesus. We are called to strive to be more like Him and to serve as humble examples for others.
It is especially important for adults to look after the young and vulnerable around us. There is a horrible scourge of drugs and crime that are rampant in our community. Too many young people are left adrift to their own devices, without access to solid mentors and advisors, let alone access to any sort of Christian education. As we know, Bible teaching is not permitted in public schools, so teachers’ hands may be tied as far as answering questions about Jesus or sharing the Bible with them. It is important for us to shepherd children and teens in the ways and places where we are able. The Holy Spirit can open doors to essential conversations about Jesus when we take the time to care for kids. This is a life and death endeavor. Faith does come by the Holy Spirit, yes, but through hearing the Gospel. (Romans 10:17) God put us here so that others may hear– not just with their ears, but through the acts of sacrifice, mercy and love that God gives us the grace to do.
Children and teens don’t need “holier than thou” adults- they need “Jesus’ servant heart in me” adults. They need adults who they can confide in, adults who will listen, adults who will take the time and spend the resources to care for them- physically, emotionally and spiritually.
(Jesus said) :The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12 (NIV)
As Jesus reached out to those who were struggling and hurting, He was gentle. He comforted those who were fragile and depleted. Though He is perfectly within His right to step down with an iron boot on sinful and broken humanity, as the prophet Isaiah foretold, Jesus comes to us- and especially to the marginalized and poor- with comfort and healing.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” Isaiah 42:1-4 (NIV)
We are called to follow the example of Jesus, the Suffering Servant. The hurting, the hopeless and the wounded of this world will be able to see Jesus through us, as we bind their wounds (visible and invisible) and do what we can do to meet their needs.
Gentle Jesus, help us to be gentle with the hurting and weak as You are. Help us to be caring toward others, and help us keep from breaking those around us who are bruised reeds.