Today’s passages: Isaiah, chapters 46-49; 1 Peter, chapter 5
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:1-11 (NRSV) – Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it – not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
Observations: There is a contrast in this passage that struck me this morning – between “exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it” and “Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock.” From the human perspective, those who exercise oversight willingly tend to “lord it over” others. I remember a number of years ago, I was seeking volunteers for a particular ministry at our church. I had someone from the congregation come and say, “If you’d like me to be in charge of that, I’ll do it.” I told them, “I’m not really looking for someone to be ‘in charge’; I’m looking for people to serve. God will decide who is ‘in charge.’” My experience is that people who are willing to be ‘in charge’ are often seeking to serve themselves rather than God.
That’s a particularly dangerous mindset for those who are ‘elders’ – those in positions of authority within the church. Jesus made it clear that while the “rulers of the Gentiles” lorded it over them, it was not to be that way in God’s Kingdom. The fact that Jesus talked about this repeatedly – whoever would be first must be the servant of all; for the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve; etc. – is a clear indication of how dangerous it is for us to seek to be “in charge,” and how often we tend to do it.
But that doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility to do what God has called us to do. The phrase “as God would have you do it” reminds us that God has established authority and structure within the church. When he calls us to a position of “authority” he expects us to serve – by being examples to the flock. Of course, our example is Jesus – so if we can serve as he served, in the same spirit of humility, then we’ll do well. All of us have a role to fill in God’s Kingdom; those who are called to lead must lead by example, and those who are called to follow must do so faithfully. The devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour, so we need to stay connected to Jesus and to each other. When a lion is hunting, it looks for an animal that is alone, and vulnerable. That’s what Satan does – and that’s why it’s important for us to stay connected, to look out for each other, and protect each other from his attacks.
That’s why it’s also important for us to resist the devil, and stay steadfast in our faith, because we know that [our] brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to tell us that nobody else understands what we’re going through – so they can’t tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. In that way, he isolates us from the help that God intends for the body of Christ to provide – and ultimately isolates us from God himself. We need to remember that Jesus was tested in every way like we are, yet did not sin – so Satan can never truthfully say that Jesus doesn’t understand. As Peter says in verse 7, Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
Applications: God is reminding me that one of Satan’s tricks is to convince us that we don’t “need” the church – don’t need to gather together for worship, don’t need to pray together, don’t need to serve together, don’t need to encourage and support one another. He deceives us into thinking of all of those things as “obligations” rather than blessings, so we look for ways to avoid them. Participation in the life of the body of Christ is no more an “obligation” than eating, drinking, or breathing are. They’re vitally important – if we don’t do them, we’ll eventually die – but they’re not an “obligation.” And neither is participation in body life – it’s a blessing that God has given us to supply all that we need, because the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish us!
Prayer: Father, thank you for the reminder that you are the One who restores, supports, strengthens, and establishes me. Thank you for the assurance that when I walk in your way, you supply all that I need. Help me today to be an example to your flock, in humility and service, so that others may be drawn to you, and grow in their faith. Lead me today in your way. Amen.