In John 10 Jesus is telling His followers about The Shepherd and the sheep. What does a shepherd look like and what does a shepherd do? Is it the shepherd's only responsibility to make sure the sheep are fed? Does the shepherd just need to make sure the sheep are in the pen at night? What does this "job" entail?
In a quick reading of this text one thing jumps out at me; the word "Know". The sheep know The Shepherd and The Shepherd knows the sheep. If all that was required of shepherds is that they made sure the sheep were fed and in the pen would they really know the sheep? Sure the sheep would come running at feeding time, but immediately when other food was provided they would go wherever the food was.
I think Jesus is trying to tell us that shepherding is hard, messy work. If we are going to be shepherds we have to make sure that the basic needs of food and shelter are provided for our sheep, but there is also messy work connected to these sheep. The only way we can be good shepherds over the sheep that God has entrusted to us is to know them and to know them intimately. This is messy work, but I think it connects to the post about baptism. The people who have the greatest input into the lives of others are those who don't care if they are going to get a little mud on their shoes, they want to make sure that they know the sheep enough to really have an impact in their lives.
What would this look like?
Calling out shyness as sin.
Seeing the bad attitude and having the guts to say something about it.
Knowing they are not reading and praying and finding out why.
Watching outward conformity but knowing there is inward rebellion and calling it.
Seeing the real hurt from remarks of others, when they just laugh it off, but you know they are really hurt.
Knowing what the concern is that day or week and asking them how it's going.
Asking what you can pray about for them this week.
knowing them enough to both celebrate victories and mourn defeats.
The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. A shepherd is not a talking head whose only responsibility is teaching/feeding. It is so much more than that and those who are called to be shepherds have both a difficult and very rewarding work. We sheep are pretty stupid at times, but the shepherd is supposed to know us enough to make sure we don't go the same direction we went last time. That requires intimate knowledge which requires a lot of time spent with the sheep.
If you are a shepherd how well do you know your sheep? How are you doing in increasing your knowledge and what are you doing to be a better shepherd than you were last year? Shepherding souls is serious business and we must be in prayer for the sheep that God has entrusted to us. We must also pray for our shepherds, as their work is difficult, because we are not very responsive sheep.