I was recently reading John 21 where Jesus is questioning Peter about His love for Him. Each time Peter answers in the affirmative, and Jesus follows up with the command for Peter to feed His sheep. His meaning is that, if Peter truly loves his Master, he is to shepherd and care for those who belong to Christ. I read it over and over again and couldn’t stop thinking about it.
To me this speaks to what should motivate us to do what God calls us to do. Our motivation to follow Jesus should be love. If you love someone you won’t be worried about following rules, not sinning, doing the “right things”. All of those things fall into place if you love someone. You gladly serve! If we are in love with Jesus and have Him as first place in our life we will want to love who and what our number one love (Jesus) does! We will want to “feed the sheep”.
Now I’ll be honest, I really wanted to know what exactly “feeding the sheep” meant so I looked it up in several Bible commentaries and I believe Jesus is saying to Peter to speak the Word to the people and preach the gospel. That is how Peter would show his love for Jesus and the sheep (the people). Jesus tells Peter if you love me, you’ll feed my sheep.
That got me to thinking about all the shepherding analogies in the Bible and what it really means to be a shepherd. I was once asked by someone what I was “gifted” at. My answer was “I take care of people (children, family) that’s what I do.”
At the time my answer felt pretty insignificant. But when I think about it, maybe something which seems so small and mostly goes unnoticed, is really the very heart of what Jesus did and who He was….the heart of a servant.
This brings me to the thought that we are all members of the body of Christ. We each fill different roles and honestly one body part is not better than another. It takes all parts working together to make up one body. We all have different functions and jobs to do. I think it is so important to note here that it is a GOOD thing to encourage others as they serve in their role/their part of the body. Yet it is also important to see our own worth in the body. Jesus sure sees it! Don’t think your role isn’t as good as someone else’s. EVERY single part is necessary. Every individual has incredible value! Don’t be afraid to tell others if you see that value in them. It may encourage and bless them more than you’ll ever know.
So what does all this have to do with shepherding? Jesus tells Peter “If you love me you’ll feed my sheep.” As I was reading about shepherds I found three primary roles they take in caring for the sheep.
They lead the sheep.
They feed the sheep.
They tend the sheep.
Each member of the body of Christ/disciple of Christ will have a gift or several gifts that they can use in caring for the sheep. If you aren’t sure what your gifts are you can take a spiritual gifts test. There are lots of free ones online. Also knowing your personality type along with your spiritual gifts can be really helpful in learning how to serve in the body of Christ. There are tons of free personality tests online, too. Remember, you are special and uniquely made and God has an amazing purpose for you in shepherding others for Him. He will help you find just what that is if you trust Him. We serve because we love the one who first loved us.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I Corinthians 12
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.