[Note: Wow. Ten days and 1 Peter is over? I’ve hardly had time to chew much less swallow. I need a week to write down the – what? Concepts? No, too illusive. Maybe I’ll just call them “ideas”. There are some “ideas” still swirling. Maybe 2 Peter will just add on and I can do it all together – later. I visualize a week at the beach with my Bible and laptop and room service…]
So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,1 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.
Bob’s an elder so I’ve been thinking about this particular “job” in the Bible a lot lately. In fact, and I’ll just say it here, after a 5 minute – literally 5 minutes – word search, I find the word elder more often than I find the word pastor. Just makes me wonder how we (the formalize church we) got to where we are about that. I’m sure there is an article I could read that explains the history but I think I’d rather see what the Scripture tells.
So this is Peter, himself an elder, exhorting the other elders within the churches. Now, to my view, the whole letter has been about suffering and submission. The submission part is a strategy, maybe a mindset, for living while on this earth. It was modeled for us by Jesus and we are to follow the model. I almost feel like the submission strategy specifics are guidelines to help the church as a whole to endure and to spare them some “you brought this on yourself” problems.
Part of the strategy of submission involves what elders are to do:
- Shepherd the flock of God that is among you
- Exercise oversight
- Do it willingly, as God would have you
- Not for gain or to be domineering
- Be an example to the flock
If I was an elder what would this mean to me in practice – like “real life”? And, how would living up to this calling benefit the church? This is at least a weekend private retreat worth of stuff to consider but here are some first thoughts:
Elders tend to a local church. The people God has placed among them. I surmise this is so they know their people.
Shepherd the flock. There is a clue about this when it says, “…when the Chief Shepherd appears”. If God is a shepherd then one could assume He knows something about it and one should and could look to Him for the how to.
Shepherding is a command and not passive. Poimaínō*– means properly, to shepherd, caring for (protecting) the flock – in other words to guard and guide according to God’s direction.
To shepherd willingly is to appreciate the calling, purpose and need for this job to be fulfilled. Willingness comes from a heart of love and desire to serve God’s people because God has asked you to.
Not for gain or power is the abuse of shepherding. The first rule of shepherding is “this is not about you.”
Be an example to the flock. Follow Jesus in your own life for sure but for the flock to notice you have to be out there among them. Being an example is probably not as passive as one would think. We are told to consider our conduct because “people are watching” but the other side is also true. If your goal is to be an example you must be where people can watch your life. That means you have to go out and live the Jesus life with them, as them.
What benefit might the flock receive? Examples of genuine, self-sacrificing love; gentleness; caring; how not to abuse power; community/family; how to live out a calling; humility.
There is more to be said about this first letter of Peter’s and what he has shared but he closes with this:
I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring
that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
…Greet one another with the kiss of love.
*4165 /poimaínō (“shepherding, pastoring”) is distinct from “feeding” (1006 /bóskō). 4165 (poimaínō) focuses on “tending” (“shepherding“) (WS, 274), which includes guarding, guiding, and folding the flock and is only provided (ultimately) by Jesus Christ – the Shepherd, who calls under-shepherds (such as elder-overseers) to guard and guide His people by His direction (1 Pet 5:1-5). http://biblehub.com/greek/4165.htm