A preacher was taking a group of Christians on a tour of the Holy Land. He had just read them the parable of the good shepherd and was explaining to them that, as they continued their tour, they would see shepherds on the hillsides just as in Jesus’ day. He wanted to impress the group, so he told them what every good preacher tells his people about shepherds. He described how, in the Holy Land, shepherds always lead their sheep, always walking in front to face dangers, always protecting the sheep by going ahead of them.
He barely got the last word out when, sure enough, they rounded a corner and saw a man and his sheep on the hillside. There was only one problem: the man wasn’t leading the sheep as the preacher had said. No, he was behind the sheep and seemed to be chasing them.
The preacher turned red. Flabbergasted, he ran over to the fence and said, “I always thought shepherds in this region led their sheep — out in front. And I told my people that a good shepherd never chases his sheep.”
The man replied, “That’s absolutely true… you’re absolutely right… but I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher!”
May this story serve as a reminder to those of you who serve as shepherds (pastors) of God’s people. It is a point made clear in Peter’s writings as well:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (I Peter 5:2-3)
May those of you who serve as shepherds strive always to be in front of the flock, leading by example, rather than driving it from behind. And may those of you who are part of the flock follow whole-heartedly those who are true shepherds and and be wary of those whose motives are sinister — there are butchers out there as well as shepherds!
Alan Smith firstname.lastname@example.org