Suffer and Lead.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.”
1 Peter 5:2 (NIV)
My sister had a high school boyfriend that I did not like. His name was Blake, and he was a Bible-thumping, manly-man with a solid build and pointed eyes. He reminded me of many of the older adolescent Christian men wading through my school and church. He was single-minded on religious issues and believed strongly in abstinence before marriage. I cannot speak for my sister (who is married to someone else now, by the way), but I think she was attracted equally to his spirituality and his charm. He doled out compliments in plentiful measure and related everything back to his spiritual journey. A perfect man’s man for God. What wasn’t there to like?
See, I thought it was all phony. Not his religious fervor – that seemed completely legit. No, it was the charm that bothered me the most. It seemed like Blake needed people to like him so that my sister would fall in love with him. We were all chips that needed to be acquired in order to gain the full affection of my sister. I felt it, and perhaps my parents did as well – thought I can’t be certain.
So one night while we all sat around the dinner table, my sister asked us what we thought about Blake. I spoke up first:
I said I didn’t like him.
She asked why?
I said he was fake, simple as that.
She went hmmmm.
And no one else chimed in.
A week later, Blake called the house, asking for me. I looked at my mother puzzled when she handed me the phone. She had no idea why he wanted to talk to me either. As it turned out, he wanted to get to know me better and wanted to take me to a movie. My pick, whatever I wanted. I reluctantly agreed, rolling my eyes all along. Ugh, I thought, he’s doing it again. He definitely doesn’t care about me!
I picked Ocean’s Eleven, and it was playing in this theater in Plymouth Meeting. There were two theaters in that town, so I gave him careful instructions on which one to go to.
He told me I was wrong, and drove to the other one. As it turned out, Ocean’s Eleven wasn’t playing there. The only movie available was a Chris Rock comedy called Down to Earth. I told him I had already seen it, and I hated it. He looked at me like… okay… I sighed and said it was fine. I suffered through it a second time, furious. At the end of it, he said he was so glad we got to hang out, and I should tell my sister all about it. I sighed again.
They broke up a little while later.
God tells us to be shepherds to others, not because we must, but because we are willing.
I like that. And I think that is important. So much of the Bible seems like “musts,” but we all know that people much more enjoys the “willings.”
And I promise that whatever I do, I will do it because I am willing, even if I do it also because I must.