A gracEmail subscriber who serves as a spiritual shepherd in his church asks whether the passage 1Timothy 3:4-5 means that he should step down from that role because his teen-age child has, for three years, had a bad attitude and has acted out in disruptive and inappropriate ways. The child’s parents have lovingly dealt with the situation as best they knew, and are now about to administer tough love in the form of treatment at a faith-based residential facility.
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I salute you for your conscientious concern. Let me answer by saying that the best and most mature literal shepherd is not the one whose sheep have always been docile, had plentiful and easy pasturage, and have never been threatened by obstacles or natural enemies. No, the literal shepherd whom other shepherds and onlookers most admire, and whom the sheep would most appreciate if they had the capacity to do so, is the one who has successfully encountered but overcome shortages of good food and water, problems with wayward and stubborn sheep, crises with predators and all the other troubling circumstances and situations that make a shepherd think about walking away and getting a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart!
The same is true of spiritual shepherds who are charged with feeding, leading and protecting the flock of God. The basis of the descriptive element which says a suitable prospective shepherd is one who “takes care” of his household is the presumption that such a person would transfer the same heartfelt attention to the extended spiritual “family” as well. (Interestingly, the Greek verb translated “take care of” in 1 Timothy 3:5 is used in the New Testament in only one other setting. That is in the story of the Good Samaritan, where this same verb appears twice, as follows: “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'”
Insofar as God gives me eyes to see, that is exactly what you are doing for your son. And that is also what your congregation can give thanks to God for providing them in a shepherd of their souls. God bless you as you continue to serve him in all your spheres.