by Emma Strelan
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Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28).
In the last two devotions, we saw the powerful role of the shepherd in caring deeply for his flock and searching for the scattered sheep. We found comfort in knowing Jesus is that shepherd. But now, Paul transfers that idea to the church elders, the people of the flock themselves.
Last year, I was a youth camp director for the first time. It really hit me what it’s like to care deeply for a group of God’s people. I didn’t need Paul to tell me to love them like Jesus because as soon as I got to meet each camper and leader, I was overwhelmed by how much I cared about them already. Here were people who had come together to learn more about God and encourage each other in this. And here I was, with the privilege of leading them for a week. They were all so unique and had so much to teach me! I honestly felt I would do anything for them and couldn’t bear the idea of even one of them struggling or wanting to go home.
In my brief time on that camp, I got a tiny glimpse of how God might feel for us, only magnified by the couple billion people on Earth. And I felt so blessed by the opportunity to share in that experience.
Now I see this Acts passage in a different light. Instead of thinking, ‘Oh no, that’s so much responsibility to live up to the expectations of Jesus, the Good Shepherd!’, I think, ‘What a privilege we have as a church that God wants to share this experience with us’.
So, how much responsibility do these elders have over the flock? Can they really do as good a job as Jesus? That’s a high standard, one that anyone is sure to fail.
The last part of the verse reminds the elders (and all of us) that the church belongs to God, not them. He ultimately saved us, bought us with his blood and brought the church into existence in the first place. This is an oh-so-important warning against our tendency to take either too much or too little responsibility.
So, for those who are church leaders, enjoy the blessings in that. And for the rest of us? Well, we can trust that Jesus’ blood has brought us together, and no other power can overcome that.
Lord, thank you that you call me to take an active role in your church, whatever that looks like. Help me to appreciate both the responsibility and blessing that leadership brings. Today, let me look to you as the example of the best shepherd there could be. Amen.