“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Most of us have never been around sheep, nor would we think of ourselves as shepherds. We may view the analogy appropriate for pastors or bishops, but not for ourselves.
Yet, many of us are responsible for people or work just as a shepherd is of sheep. The people may be members of our families or employees who work for us; they may be team members or customers who we are expected to serve, or even friends who may have an expectation of support. The work can be our job responsibilities, family responsibilities, or expectations flowing from friendship.
As the good shepherd, Jesus distinguished himself from the hired hand who abandons the sheep when he sees the wolf coming because he neither owns the sheep nor cares for them. (John 10:12) Let me illustrate with a story.
John was a county prosecutor in Duluth, Minnesota. In one of his early cases he was surprised to discover that a former high school friend, Jim, was the defendant. Over the next 26 years John would prosecute Jim a dozen times for theft related crimes to support a chemical dependency.
For a number of years John thought Jim was just another hopeless habitual criminal. Then John recommitted his life to Jesus Christ and experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The next time he saw Jim in court he told him that he would pray for him. Jim said not to bother.
Then Jim was again caught with a cache of stolen goods, sentenced to prison, but learned that he was terminally ill with sclerosis of the liver. His lawyer arranged for him to be assigned to a hospice. Jim asked his lawyer to let John know his condition and to request his prayers.
Over the next six months John did more than just pray for Jim. He visited him two or three times a week. They reminisced about growing up in the 1950s and talked about their favorite baseball players. They also read the Bible together. That fall, Jim repented of his sins and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. He died in November. “Jim loved reading and praying the psalms,” said John. “God used Jim to teach me about acceptance of suffering and perseverance, and he showed me that it’s never too late to say yes to the Lord, no matter what we have done.”
John concludes, “Because God answers prayers, Jim said, ‘yes’ to Christ before he died, and I know he is in paradise today – just like another thief who died on the cross next to Jesus 2000 years ago.” (Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, p. 46-47, www.zacchaeuspublications.com.)
John was a good shepherd of his responsibilities as a prosecutor and of even the people he prosecuted such as Jim. John says, “I pray before every case that truth and justice will prevail regardless of the outcome it brings.” John sacrificed his time in supporting Jim and leading him to Christ before he died. He did not run like a hired hand in the face of a challenge. He persevered in going after a lost sheep in the person of his former friend Jim, and was faithful until he brought him home to the Father just like “the good shepherd [who] lays down his life for his sheep.”
Am I a good shepherd of the people and responsibilities entrusted to me?