I have now been a Pastor for 25 years. The word “Pastor” derives from the Greek word “poimen” meaning “shepherd”. The Pastor is called to shepherd and nurture a local church which is made up of believers in the Chief Shepherd, Jesus. He not only calls himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14), but Christians also believe Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) through his sacrificial death on the cross. There are many references to Jesus as the Lamb of God in Scripture.
The Greatest Is Love
As I contemplate these last 25 years, I have come to the conclusion that the most important factor for a local church to engage in faithful and effective mission in the world is the quality of relationships that exist within a local congregation. We should not be surprised by this observation. Jesus did say that the world would know that we are followers of Jesus, if we loved one another, as he loved us (John 13:34.35).
Jesus made this declaration right after he washed the disciples’ dusty feet in the Upper Room during the Last Supper. Jesus challenged his disciples that if he, the Lord, selflessly serves this way, how much more should they do likewise. He went so far as to say: “Now that you know these things,, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). It is right here where we often fall short in our discipleship. We fall short of Jesus’ example for various reasons.
Obstacles To Christ-like Love
One of those reasons is the influence of rampant consumerism which is so endemic to North American culture. Through the all-pervasive advertising industry, it is banged into our heads over and over that our main identity and worth as human persons are found in being a consumer. It is easy to approach church with the same kind of mentality. An attitude of “what’s in it for me” does not often lead into a Christ-like lifestyle of washing other people’s feet. Living selfishly focuses on ourselves, living selflessly points to Jesus. It is relationships characterized by God-like agape love which reveals to unbelievers that we are followers of the crucified and risen Lord of the world.
Another reason why our discipleship falls short is when we do not adequately deal with past hurts. No matter who we are, we have all experienced past wounds through hurtful experiences and relationships. We live in a broken and alienated world. As servants and followers of Christ we are called to be wounded healers in this world. And many Christians are faithful to this calling. They have deeply experienced the grace and mercy of Jesus and are able to express that grace in relationship with others on a consistent basis. But there are other believers who, for one reason or another, express more their alienation and woundedness in relationship to others, than God’s grace.
There are people in the church who are like the unmerciful servant in Jesus’ parable of Mathew 18:21-35………… People who are easily offended and who find it very difficult to empathize with others and forgive others. They walk around like the unmerciful servant, ready to throttle others by the throat, and demanding “Pay back what you owe!” Little do they seem to realize that they are still hemorrhaging from past wounds and hurts which have become infected by deep resentments and fears. Unwittingly they are demanding from fellow servants what others have done to them. Only a willingness to acknowledge one’s deep wounds and pride, and more deeply yielding to the touch of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, can we begin walking in shalom and wholeness.
It is in giving ourselves to the Lord in faith and to one another in trusting love relationships that we can find our healing. Trust is so vital for this kind of God-like love and community to flourish. That is why the enemy of our soul tries to break the trust between brothers and sisters in Christ. Satan has been using the same strategy since the Garden of Eden. He broke the trust between Adam and Eve and between them and God. Through this breaking of trust, Satan was able to unleash alienation, death and chaos into the world.
We are called by the Lord to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Let us be mindful of Satan’s schemes as he tries to break the trust in our local churches, in our marriages and in our friendships. Let us be even more mindful of the Lord’s great calling for His body, the church. Let us be willing to wash one another’s feet in life-giving service, and let us be merciful and gracious to all, especially to those who are a part of the household of faith.
QOTD: Do I walk in this life like a Christ-like servant or like the unmerciful servant of Mathew 18:21-35?