“He rules by the force of love…”

Christ’s reign in His Church is that of a shepherd-king. He has supremacy, but it is the superiority of a wise and tender shepherd over his needy and loving flock; He commands and receives obedience, but it is the willing obedience of the well-cared-for sheep, rendered joyfully to their beloved Shepherd, whose voice they know so well. He rules by the force of love and the energy of goodness.

C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, August 19th

I love a bit of Spurgeon. I have since I discovered a dusty smelling book of his sermons in my Dad’s office when I was 16. It was like finding buried treasure. His passion for Jesus and the lost dripped off the pages. I was enthralled.

In 2001 Dad gave me a copy of Spurgeon’s ‘Morning and Evening’. It’s clear this meant something to Dad because he wrote in it rather than Mum! Yet again the adventurer, it was worth me having to decipher the hieroglyphics of his handwriting.

Spurgeon writes so beautifully of the Great Shepherd. Who wouldn’t want to follow Him after hearing Spurgeon preach?!

However, all that discovery didn’t make me wise enough to spot when I was being led by a wolf rather than a shepherd.

In my days at the Crowded House we were taught to submit to our leaders, to not make their task burdensome. When we had issues or concerns, we were able to raise them, but only for so long. Pushing them too far would be a sign of an unteachable heart (the flip side was that leaders were taught that people raising concerns about decisions was an opportunity for ‘discipleship’ of that person). Who wants an unteachable heart? So I looked to submit. To try and rein in my tendency to be a ‘dog-with-a-bone’. To put my concerns ultimately down to a lack of experience on my part and not being able to see clearly what others could see.

But what characterised those years? Fear.

Fear that I would be seen as difficult, unteachable, not someone that could lead. Fear that if I said something negative about ‘him’ then ‘he’ would certainly find out and call me in.

I knew I was fearing, but once more I (and others) put that fear down to me, my problem, my heart. Afterall, ‘perfect love drives out fear’, ego if I am fearing then I’m not loving. So I battled with my fear, trying to subdue it, but, ironically, as a result not loving those closest to me. Until we left and I was able to breathe.

A shepherd doesn’t need to lead through fear. Of course a leader who is leading through fear is probably the most fearful person in the church. They have to keep a tight rein on things or else they may lose their power.

How different is Jesus. ‘He rules by the force of love’, ‘it is willing obedience of the well-cared-for sheep’.

Of course there can be fear that arises in ourselves due to past experiences, that are not in relation or proportion to present experiences. I know that in myself. But a shepherd-leader will see that and gently show that there is nothing to fear. If you apparently need telling that there is nothing to fear and the problem is all in you, in spite of the evidence, then that’s probably the moment to grab your coat and run.

Thankfully my experience is not everyone’s experience. There are shepherd-leaders out there who are like THE great shepherd. But sadly there are still wolves. And will be until Jesus returns.

But what a day that will be… when those who are wolves are called to account, and when we can run into the arms of the Shepherd himself.

Just imagine that for a moment.

Running into the total safety and security of His arms.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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Grief creeps up on you…
Where have all the sad hymns gone?